racism claims are "meaningless" and "insulting"
that mental health services are racist are "meaningless and
insulting” and create poor morale among staff, two psychiatry
professors have claimed.
Black people are three times more likely to be admitted to psychiatric
hospital and up to 44% more likely to be compulsory detained, a
report last year revealed.
The report, entitled Count Me In and produced by the Healthcare
Commission and the Mental Health Act Commission, covered almost
34,000 mental health inpatients.
On the back of the report, the government launched a five-year race
equality action plan in a bid, it said, to eradicate racism in mental
health services. Seventeen strategic health authorities were asked
to set up non-discriminatory mental health projects.
But writing in the September 23
edition of the British Medical Journal, professors Swaran Singh
and Tom Burns argued that figures in the Count Me In census may
be due to the the social exclusion and low socio-economic standing
of black and ethnic minority people, as much as racism.
They said evidence showed that rates
of psychiatric disorder are high for all migrants, irrespective
Singh and Burns wrote: “Rates
of psychotic disorder are high not just among the African-Caribbean
community in the UK, they are high for all immigrant groups globally.
"The excess is also not restricted
to non-Western minorities. Rates of schizophrenia are high in migrants
to Denmark from Australia and Greenland, in Finnish migrants to
Sweden, and in Britons, Germans, Poles, and Italians who migrated
continued: “Shared experiences of discrimination, social exclusion,
and urbanicity may all contribute to this increased risk and also
explain a greater increase in communities exposed to higher levels
of such experiences, such as black and ethnic minority communities
in the UK.
“Ethnicity and psychosis is
simply not a black and white issue.”
Singh, professor of social and community
psychiatry at the University of Warwick, and Burns, professor of
social psychiatry at the University of Oxford believe
the racism claim "damages the profession [of psychiatry] and
called the accusation "vague, meaningless" and "insulting".
"It devalues the thoughtful
research that has been conducted to better understand these problems.
It undermines morale and recruitment as staff feel undervalued and
blamed," they wrote.
"Secondly, it distracts both
professionals and minority communities from trying to understand
these very real differences. Blaming others may bring temporary
comfort but is hardly likely to lead to increased understanding
and remedial action."
continued: "Thirdly, and most gravely, it damages the welfare
of current and potential ethnic minority patients. If they anticipate
a racist and discriminatory reception from us then it is no surprise
that they stay away from seeking help until it is too late and there
are few alternatives to detention and enforced treatment.”
Singh and Burns also wrote that claims of racism in mental health
services acts as a “self fulfilling prophecy” by contributing
to a mistrust of services by ethnic minorities, leading to a delay
in seeking help seeking, with increased use of detention and coercive
treatments for ethnic minority patients.
7, 2005: 'We'll end racism in mental health' says minister -
Rosie Winterton pledge follows report revealing black people are
three times more likely to be admitted to psychiatric hospital
2005: Voices for change - a project in Bradford is leading the
way in providing community mental health services for black and
ethnic minority people. Adam James reports
June 1, 2005: A way with the anti-racist will? - In a bid to
root out racism in mental health services the government has launched
a raft of initiatives. But will they be enough? Adam
4, 2005: Planned services heralded to be "hothouses of reform"
in rooting out racism in mental health - announcement of new
projects comes on heels of census to establish extent of discrimination
against black and minority ethnic patients in NHS and private hospitals
11, 2005: We'll cut rate that black and ethnic minority people are
detained in psychiatric hospital, vow ministers - promise unveiled
in government five-year anti-racist action plan for mental health
a social reality
Vernon De Maynard, counsellor, London
November 16, 2006
Burns and Singh's rejection of racism claims, and blatant denial
of the racist within, is precisely why the mental health care in
the UK is not experienced in the same way by all who have to use
fact is racism is a social reality. Even where people are matched
for social disadvantage, black people still seem to suffer more
than their white counterparts, and always give racism as a cause
of their additional suffering.
do make judgements based on negative evaluations of physical features
and differences in culture that have come to define a person. The
fact that migrants, throughout Europe, appear to suffer from such
evaluations is interesting in itself. But to ignore the experiences
of the very people they, and other mental health workers are supposed
to be serving, as if they didn't happen, does not bode well for
black and minority ethnic (BME) people in the UK.
fact is BME people do experience racism, and this racism may be
real or imagined. Burns and Singh may not be racist in their actions,
but with attitudes like theirs, it is no wonder black people shy
clear of mental health services in the UK.
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