All entries for May 2010

May 07, 2010

Accusations of institutional racism hinders mental health research

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Racial differences in the incidence of psychiatric disorders and experiences of healthcare are not necessarily due to racism in mental health services, according to University of Warwick Professor of Psychiatry Swaran Singh in an article published in the Times Higher Educational Supplement on 6 May.

Various studies over the last 30 years have shown that ethnic minorities are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and psychosis, particularly people of Afro-Caribbean origin. This has been attributed to institutional racism.

However Professor Singh, who is also the Darzi lead for Mental Health in the West Midlands, argues the attitude that the diagnoses are necessarily wrong is inhibiting research into racial differences in mental health.

He said: “Despite substantial concern that biomedical difference between ethnic groups can be misinterpreted as innate genetic differences, few would argue that race and ethnicity should be completely abandoned as descriptive variables in research.”

Professor Singh added that research should try to unpack and isolate biological, cultural and social influences that may lie at the root of inequalities in mental health for some ethnic groups.

Professor Swaran Singh also holds an honorary consultant contract with the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust.

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