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1. Race and modern psychiatry

Littlewood and Lipsledge discuss the traditional coercive system of psychiatry, the use of
psychiatric drugs, asylums, mechanical devices by various repressive governments to control
dissidents. Warner discusses this. Psychiatry is perfectly suited for this role. Thus:

The modern psychiatrist is not the descendant of the psychoanalyst but of the 19th
Century asylum keeper ([1997] p 10).

Philip Thomas was struck by the fact that so many of his young black patients had been given the
diagnosis of schizophrenia when they were admitted to hospital late at night, having been
admitted under MHA 1983, Section 136. Many of them did not have what he regarded as classic
symptoms of schizophrenia. He went out of his way to forge links with the local black
community. (This occurred prior to the Government document Health of the Nation: A Strategy
for Health in England
1992 which urged doctors to forge links with black communities.) He
became aware of the fear he created by being a psychiatrist. One client's mother he called on was
terrified to see him:

She thought that psychiatrists were like the police and that I had come to arrest her ([1997]
p 3).

He was determined to find out more about the culture of the people, learning to work them in
an inter-cultural way. Thomas notes that the mental health of black people was particularly
affected by life stresses such as unemployment, police harassment, discrimination, bad housing.
He criticized the way in which young black men were brought into hospitals off the street in the
middle of the night, and that he, as a psychiatrist, was expected to 'put them away'.

Fernando also criticizes the coercive way in which many black people access the psychiatric
system. Like Thomas, Fernando argues powerfully for the recognition in psychiatry of the
importance of understanding and working with the race and culture of the client before making
a diagnosis. Ignorance of race and cultural behaviour can lead to misperception and

In his article, 'Race, Culture and Mental Health: an Historical Approach', Fernando traces the
development of the science of psychiatry alongside slavery and colonialism. The doctrine of
racism, that of the white race being superior to other races also developed under the 'scientific'
observations of psychiatry fed into the notion of white supremacy. Fernando states that
psychiatry is a pseudo-science, tied in with the race and culture of Europe, and the opinions
Europeans had of other cultures.

This article isn't a 'series of points'. It chronicles the history behind the stereotyping of black
people in Western society by major figures in medicine and psychoanalysis. Myths and
stereotypes about black people are part of Western culture. Many people smoke cannabis, but
only black people, especially Rastafarians, develop 'cannabis psychosis'.

Fernando asserts that many forms of distress and misbehaviour are seen through Western eyes
as mental illnesses, as though black culture is pathological. The racial stereotyping goes on at the
highest levels. Professor Rawnsley, ex-President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and
Chairman of the Committee considering British ethnic minorities claims: