Issue of Race-Based Mis-diagnosis Still Troubling in US

Mental health as a professional and academic field has been riddled with controversial issues in human nature, gender differences, income disparities, and other major social divides throughout its history in the United States, though most modern practitioners and advocates can be pleased with the progress that has taken place in these areas over the past several years. While a strong percentage of therapists and other professionals are likely to suspect that issues in racial discrimination have largely or even entirely been abolished, a professor of psychiatry and women’s studies has recently released a statement along with a book about the ongoing issue of the mis-diagnosis of schizophrenia among black men.

The professor notes that black men are up to four times as likely to be mis-diagnosed with schizophrenia than those of other ethnic backgrounds, an issue that likely stems from popular ideas about the nature of mental illness in general and schizophrenia in particular during the civil rights movement in the US. Black men who were involved in protests and other actions were often institutionalized, and various personality traits were then associated with schizophrenia as a mental health concern.

Though modern understanding of schizophrenia and other mental health issues has become considerably more advanced since the mid-19th century, the professor suggests that certain prejudices and false ideas about the black male demographic among mental health professionals has ensured that this artifact of discrimination remains prevalent within today’s community. Of special concern is the tendency to place many of these men in prisons rather than in dedicated mental health care settings. His work calls for a closer examination of the issue and an awakening of the community at large.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Racine j

    Racine j

    January 10th, 2010 at 10:45 AM

    Sad that in the 21st century black people are still being mischaracterized and evidently misdiagnosed all because of the color of our skin. Things like this lead me to an outrage that you would not believe- when will the thinking public finally come to the legitimate conclusion that race really is only what is on the outside and plays no part of what is going on on the inside? Come on, it’s time to get a clue.

  • Katie Williams

    Katie Williams

    January 10th, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    People may not show their racist attitude out in the open or they may not even think they are racist, but everybody has perceptions… prejudices. Now you might say how can we change people’s perceptions…well we can, through awareness campaigns!

  • norah


    January 11th, 2010 at 4:06 AM

    It is a very wrong thing to have such prejudices regarding a particular race and especially so when it is a case involving a tough issue like choosing between prison and a dedicated health care facility…

  • gamecockfan96


    January 11th, 2010 at 6:29 AM

    I would also be curious to hear whether or not this seems to be an issue in other industrialized countries or if this is a problem that is very specific to the United States

  • Bollinger


    January 11th, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    ^^ This is an issue faced in any country with a varied populace and is more so in industrialized nations as there are far more migrants and people of different races and backgrounds there.

  • A. Kelvin

    A. Kelvin

    January 11th, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    This really calls for an awareness campaign amonst the professional community and to sensitise them about black people, and people of all backgrounds in general.Mental and psychological aspects have nothing to do with race!

  • Christy W.

    Christy W.

    January 12th, 2010 at 3:05 AM

    If professional people themselves have prejudices and things like that, then what can we say to the common people out on the streets? Prejudice and race-based assumptions can be very dangerous and awareness needs to be spread.

  • Terri


    January 12th, 2010 at 5:47 AM

    As dismayed as I am about this issue I have a hard time believeing that it is going to be that easy to change the minds of the counselors and doctors who are misdiagnosing people. It is easy to teach them new info, but to have them unlearn those prejudices that they may hide inside is going to be even more difficult. They may not even recognize the ways that they feel, and may not be willing to step up to the plate to acknowledge poor judgement. That is what is so sad about this. You have people who are so smart and have the potential to really help others who need it get their lives back but they are so focused on areas that make no difference when it comes to mental health that they are doing more harm that good overall.

  • Carol P

    Carol P

    January 12th, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    Will there ever come a time when race is no longer an issue? You would think that when it comes to medicine, it would not matter what the color of your skin is or your ethnic background is when it comes to getting the right diagnoses. Unfortunately that seems to be wrong. People are still being unfairly judged based on their outward appearance, and I am not talking about just at job interviews. This is horrible that now you have to even wonder at the doctor’s office if you are getting treated fairly because of what you look like.

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