Is the Mental Health System Yet Another Form of Institutional Racism?


With the political tide shifting across the United States and reports of hate crimes increasing daily, examining the systems that promote social control and act as tools of racism is paramount. In the last several years, the media and movements such as Black Lives Matter have raised awareness about the shootings of innocent Black men, the war on drugs as a revamped Jim Crow campaign, and institutional racism throughout the judicial system. In fact, the prison system, largely populated with low-level Black drug offenders, is argued to be inherently racist and directly targeted towards ethnic minorities.

What is not being discussed is how the mental health system contributes to the human rights violations of minorities every day. Is it possible that the mental institution is just another venue for imprisoning Blacks unjustly?

Similar to the prison system, Blacks and other minorities make up a disproportionate percentage of the inpatient population in both the US and United Kingdom. Rates of admission are approximately three times higher in minorities than in White or Asian ethnic groups. Racism, sexism, oppression, and classism are argued to be inherent throughout the mental health system. The American Psychiatric Association has long ago acknowledged the stereotypes and misconceptions replete within the psychiatric literature. Drapetomania, known to medical authorities in the early 19th century as a disease that caused “negroes” to run away from their slave owners, was accepted as a true mental disease that explained why slaves might not wish to be the “submissive knee bender” that God declared him to be. More recently, schizophrenia, in its very definition, became symbolized by the angry Black man and is consistently applied more often to immigrants and African Americans throughout the Western world. The diagnosis is predicted by experiences of chronic discrimination, oppression, and marginalization, yet is asserted to be a genetic disease that has nothing to do with one’s life circumstances.

Photo credit: William Stitt

Though likely unintentional and out of clinicians’ awareness, there is also clear racial bias in the diagnostic process itself. Minorities are more likely to have more defeatist prognoses and to be given less opportunity for meaning-making and recovery than their white counterparts. The “objective” psychological tests designed to aid in diagnosis are more likely to inflate pathology among minority subjects. And, when minorities’ explanatory models for their distress is in disagreement with the leading medical authorities, they are said to be victims of “stigma” and “underdiagnosis” rather than as having a viewpoint worth listening to. For instance, Native Americans have traditionally incorporated a holistic and spiritual approach to addressing emotional distress, but this has increasingly been usurped by a medical model that sends the message that they “lack awareness” and education which prevent them from obtaining “appropriate” services. Interestingly, stigma is actually directly associated with a medicalized understanding of emotional distress.

Descriptive terms that are more likely to encapsulate the oppressed minority, such as “paranoia” or “delusions of persecution”, are experiences often difficult to understand for a highly educated privileged White person. Minorities develop within a world that teaches them to hate themselves, to internalize messages that they will never be good enough, and that no matter how successful they become, they will never be, well, White. This is particularly interesting considering that chronic experiences of persecution and relative poverty are both major risk factors for psychosis as a young adult. The only things more robustly related to “schizophrenia” are childhood emotional and sexual abuse and bullying. Yet, the public is inundated with messages that mental illness, particularly schizophrenia, is a hereditary disease unrelated to one’s life circumstances.

In response, such individuals are most often given a cocktail of dangerous drugs that may or may not help them cope with the unjust world around them. And, although it is known that different ethnicities metabolize drugs differently, which can lead to toxicity or reactive psychoses and/or mania, they are actually given more of these drugs than their White counterparts. Further, they are more often injected with neuroleptics and involuntarily detained as compared to Whites.

Instead of addressing issues of poverty, discrimination, and ethnic disparities, public funds are diverted to efforts to increasingly take away such individuals’ rights, medicalize their suffering, and quiet their rantings lest they disturb the illusion of justice and peace. As it stands, current mental health policy and diagnostic practices represent a form of institutionalized racism. In the ongoing efforts to raise awareness and bring police and prison reform, society must also consider the needed reform to mental health laws, practices, and assumptions. Until it is fundamentally understood that Black lives matter, in the mental health system too, the importance of life more generally will never be truly appreciated.

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. Besides, for Republicans, insanity doesn’t exist; it’s only willful laziness, better dealt with by jails and prisons, which are better suited to conservative ideology because that’s where the insane usually went in the 19th Century.

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  2. You answer the question you ask in the title within your post, Noel. Blacks and other minorities make up a disproportionately large percentage of the people institutionalized in both the USA and the UK. Yes, undoubtedly, racism is as alive and kicking as it ever was, and you find a type of racial profiling putting people of color in psychiatric institutions. Eugenics evolved into nugenics, but there is still this underlying premise that there is something wrong with the genes of people caught up in the loony trash bin system. Perhaps the mad gene is connected to the skin color gene ruminate our behavioral modifiers and social controllers. Perhaps we can use this system to quell social discontent and rebellion in the interest of maintaining an arthritic, as well as great white, status quo concur our law makers and politicians. Great post, and spot on analysis in this instance.

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  3. Given the huge percentage of child abuse victims labeled with the scientifically invalid DSM disorders, then silenced with toxic psychiatric drugs, rather than being helped. I’d say child abuse victims of all colors, are the people most targeted by psychiatric “racism.” #Pizzagate

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  4. Hi Noel,

    Thanks for this post.

    Both “actual” prisons and mental prisons (“hospitals”) represent lock-ups where a disproportionate number of the inmates are poor Latinos and blacks and the majority of the guards are middle-class whites.

    One can imagine going back in time to see black slaves watched over by white masters in the fields of Louisiana or Georgia in 1850, and then switch to an image of black young people being drugged and confined in 2016 at any American mental “hospital”. There are many commonalities in terms of racial and economic oppression.

    The minorities in the 1800s produced profit for their masters by unpaid physical work (this economic oppressions happens today to a lesser degree, via the uncomfortable reality that Hispanic and black people commonly work for extremely low non-livable wages cleaning the houses, tending the gardens, and care-taking the kids of white professionals). And today another racket has arisen: psychiatric hospitals, where large numbers of helpless minorities are diagnosed with fictitious diseases which allow white-controlled corporations, served by their agents the psychiatrists, to sell tranquilizing pills of extremely questionable value, the costs of which bilk taxpayers and associated government programs out of billions of dollars.

    Mental hospitals can be understood as neo-plantations for Big Pharma corporations – they are starting points for the corporations and their psychiatrist-minions to implant the seeds of the delusion into vulnerable people that they have illnesses and need to take drugs. Mental hospital environments result in slavery both physiologically – to long-term drugging for illusory “illnesses” – and even more importantly, psychologically – mental enslavement by the myth that one has a brain disease and needs to take a “medication”.

    If one uses the analogy of the 1850s South, the slave drivers at a modern day psychiatric hospital, who are never seen on site, are the corporations and their leading executive officers, almost always white men. The foremen are the psychiatrists who implement the brain disease / drugging program of the corporations.

    And the slaves are the drugged lemmings who shuffle along the drab hallways at 9 am and 9 pm to receive their “medications”, starting what is often a lifelong career as profit-producing machines for the corporation. And yes, far too many of them are Latinos and blacks, politically incorrect as it is to say that.

    And Noel, relative to the mention of poverty and economic inequality, you might find this article – “The Engine of Inequality: Privilege” – interesting –

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    • Thanks, Matt, for the link to an interesting analysis. It made me think of John Read’s studies demonstrating that “poverty” is not in an of itself the catalyst for emotional distress and experiences that get labelled “psychotic”, but rather “relative poverty”…ie inequality. It seems that the need for justice is embedded in our DNA.

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    • No, I didn’t say there was a grand racist scheme against minorities, that would be your projection.

      I’m actually employed full time, off all psych drugs, not symptomatic in any significantly impairing way, socially active..

      If you have real arguments, make them – and if you have courage, do it under your real name like I do.

      If you don’t have real arguments, just continue with the personal insults. It only makes what you say look weak.

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  5. >>for Republicans, insanity doesn’t exist

    >>GOP government- billions for private prisons, zero for anything in the health

    >>Eugenics evolved into nugenics

    >>Mental hospitals can be understood as neo-plantations for Big Pharma corporations –

    Seriously, you people are completely nuts.

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    • ad ho·mi·nem
      ˌad ˈhämənəm/
      adverb & adjective
      (of an argument or reaction) directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.
      “vicious ad hominem attacks”
      relating to or associated with a particular person.
      “the office was created ad hominem for Fenton”

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  6. There’s lots of confusion about what is and isn’t an analogy here. There are those at MIA who insist that using slavery “analogies” when describing psychiatry is “racist”; however one can see when examining history that this is not an “analogy”; that slavery and racism have always been literally part and parcel of Western psychiatry, or, in other words, psychiatry.

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  7. Thanks for a great article. I hope it stays current and hope to come back to it.

    Meanwhile I’d like to point out to all FYI that the “21st Century Cures” bill being so blithely discussed today is A NEW VERSION OF THE MURPHY BILL INCLUDING AOT and SCHEDULED TO BE PASSED WEDNESDAY!!! MIA has not made this clear, so…heads up everyone! (Don’t respond here, go to a relevant article and/or the organizing forum.)

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  8. The mh system is indeed an institution of bigotry, class division, and marginalization. It is systemic social abuse, embodied, so it will exhibit all symptoms of racism, sexism, elitism, and exclusion. I believe it is a “culturally (and otherwise) incompetent” black hole in society.

    This is not a personal attack on anyone who is part of this system, or even on anyone who supports it (does anyone actually defend the system, as is, these days??), but, truly, my authentic impersonal critique of the system after having experienced it from top to bottom, in many ways, for a couple of decades, and then distancing myself from it, cleaning up the mind/body/spirit trauma I experienced from it, processing my experience, and then seeing it from afar, with more clarity than when I was spinning within it.

    In all neutrality, I can honestly say that I find the mh system to be so much more destructive, harmful, and divisive than anything that resembles some kind of help to anyone. That’s what seems to be the needle in the haystack here.

    If we ever are to have hope of unity, at least in the USA, and I imagine the world, the mh system simply cannot be, because it is more fearful of, judgmental towards, and angry at its clients, rather than compassionate, kind, understanding, and *fair.* And it will not hear this, regardless of anything, obviously. No mirroring allowed, at least not in THAT direction.

    There is no neutrality here! And a lot of fear, which is a precarious ground zero from which to operate, but that’s what I witnessed, tons and tons of fear of people–its own clients–so there is this impenetrable wall here, clean and clear division of a diverse humanity, and everyone’s “proper place” in that particular society.

    By how it operates so insistently bullying, stigmatizing, and oppressive as hell–at least from my experience, that was prevalent and consistent from agency to agency–social unity and well-being would be an utterly impossible goal to achieve. This blasted system is totally in the way of progress, evolution, and social healing!

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  9. Agree with the author 100%. When psychiatry can be used as a weapon by people of authority, it will be used as a weapon. Like a whip, of sorts. Listen up boy. We control you. You are defective. We know whats best for you. We will test you. We will diagnose you. We will label you. And we will tell you what you need. We know whats best for you because you lack insight. But even more than a tool of racism, it is a tool of oppression that can be applied anywhere, to anyone who may find himself alone, facing “the authorities.” Resistance is met with punishment. Psychiatry justifies the punishment. I speak from experience.

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  10. Certainly racism has long been a big part of it. But I don’t know if today racism is still a big part of it.

    It used to be that capitalism got its scapegoats from the immigrants and minorities who did low wage labor and slave labor. It needs these to keep the entire work force in line.

    But today there is much less need for labor.

    So it gets its scapegoats directly from the middle-class family, with the help of the psychiatric system, recovery, psychotherapy, and evangelical religion. These are designed to oppress and to turn people into basket cases and to stop them from being able to politically organize and fight back.

    This is why we must never endorse psychotherapy, recovery, or healing, and we must never take a pity seeking approach.


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  11. While I do agree that racism does exist in the MH system, in my opinion even poor whites are often treated in the same manner, being a white man myself growing up in a emotionally abusive family and years of bullying and many other things led me to believe I was worthless and someone who didn’t deserve love or respect and I internalized all of this. I don’t mean to sound like a victim but it destroyed me and the MH system was no help at all, in fact it only confirmed and reinforced the same messages.

    These are all the things I’ve experienced from the so-called “professionals” and no I don’t have some delusional prosecution complex. This is the “help” I received.

    “You Don’t Matter” – Lack of respect, shaming & not listening

    • Treating the client as a “diagnosis” rather than as a person

    • Undermining the clients self-confidence and self-esteem and making them feel humiliated; jokes being at the clients expense, laughing at clients

    • Not listening properly and only “hearing” what fits in with the therapists own preconceived notions

    • Making clients doubt their own reality (gaslighting)

    • Failing to act on the clients complaints (disbelieving/dismissing/writing off ) as symptoms of their mental illness or ignoring the clients current life circumstances.

    • Refusal/inability to provide proper support when the client is making major life changes

    • Putting down a clients belief system and labeling it as “delusional” or deviant simply because it differs from the therapists own views

    • Asking the client to pursue homework that is never used in the following session or forgetting

    • Breaking promises made to a client

    • Making the client feel like they are dangerous or being treated at distance

    The process of medicalization tends to strip clients of their social context, so they are seen through a biomedical model, resulting in a total disregard for the reasons the client has adopted certain behaviors or beliefs that I believe are from a number of certain factors such as child-hood emotional, psychological, or sexual abuse. The biomedical model then causes the Therapist or psychologist to view the client as slightly less than human then themselves often based on the Therapists own biases, preconceived notions, and prejudices were by a form of dehumanization occurs paving the way for MH system to client abuse and this can be directed to towards both low income poor whites and minorities. Also the biomedical model allows for profit to be made based on the clients so called “symptoms” as defined in the DSM.

    More than this it’s effecting our entire society, as Alex said it’s standing in the way of progress and achieving true unity and love.

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      • But this does point out that perhaps this goes beyond race and is an attack against the poor in general. I am reminded of the state I live in. It went red in the election of 2014 with the election of a new governor and with almost all seats in the legislature turning up red. Immediately the state government began purging almost all services to the poor and the one’s they couldn’t dismantle they put regulations in place that make it almost totally impossible to qualify for the services. They are doing the same thing to the educational system, which wasn’t the greatest in the first place considering that we’re a Southern state.

        I’m beginning to wonder if all of this is not just about minorities and racism but about social class. You have the Koch brothers investing millions in school board elections in small cities in my state and in Colorado. What in the hell do they care about school board elections for in small towns???? Just wondering………

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        • “I’m beginning to wonder if all of this is not just about minorities and racism but about social class.”

          I am certain that is exactly what it is. The system is utterly classist. Poor people are perceived and treated as less then human, shamed, and judged. All sorts of false projections and highly discriminating stigma happen here. These projections become their identity, en mass, and they are (mis)treated and dehumanized accordingly. And good luck complaining about it. As WoundedSoul74 so rightly says, it will merely become yet another symptom of crazy. The oppression is severe, cruel, and very dangerous.

          Poor people are the clients of the system, otherwise they’d be seeking support from a private practice. And they are perceived as powerless, so right from the get go, one enters the system with a scarlet letter already in place. And if one insists otherwise, that they are not that projection, there is hell to pay in all sorts of ways, starting with gaslighting and then comes intimidation. It is commonplace in the system, to exert control over others.

          Personally, I feel this perception of poor people being powerless is the delusion which makes the system most vulnerable, because that is anything but true. I’d love to see that particular illusion totally and completely cracked at its foundation, so that the truth of personal power can be seen and felt for what it is, regardless of financial status and where one is on the social and professional hierarchy–all illusion intended to make a few elitists feel powerful, at the expense of most others, who feel rendered powerless. That is some serious social vampirism.

          Don’t believe it, everyone is powerful. And that’s a really scary thought for this system, which works very hard to disempower its clients in every way imaginable. Could it be that, at the core, these big shots feel powerless, themselves, on a personal level, so they insist on being so manipulative towards and controlling of others?

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        • But this does point out that perhaps this goes beyond race and is an attack against the poor in general.

          That’s true, however my point is that the article is specifically about how psychiatry is used as an instrument of racism; white people like to talk about themselves and act like they understand things that they don’t — specifically that whatever “people in general” suffer at the hands of psychiatry, Black people are affected exponentially.

          (Stephen are you aware of the “stealth” MURPHY bill being voted on TOMORROW? Calls need to be made today, check out the organizing forum.)

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          • I thought we weren’t supposed to reply to each other’s posts. I would suggest you explain yourself. Are you saying that white people aren’t on the whole clueless about racism? Do you even know what racism is? Stigmatizing, how? Competitive, with whom?

            In case anyone misinterpreted my previous comment, it was directed to Stephen but not at him; it was referring to the previous post.

            entirely antithetical to social unity and cohesion


            What this is about is white people hijacking discussions about racism and diverting them to matters they consider more important.

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          • Stephen — There seems to be some confusion; at no point was I challenging YOUR ability to identify racism (though I was unaware of your heritage). Certainly the mh system is ALSO an instrument of class oppression. What I was objecting to was the attempt to divert the subject of THIS discussion, which is racism, to something else. It’s a form of white privilege, or –what would you call it — “whitesplaining”?

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          • I won a legal mediation 12 years ago against an agency because I was able to prove that I had been discriminated against as a 1) disabled person, and 2) Latino. It was not that hard to prove this, and the legal professionals were able to see this.

            Were I to keep my mouth shut, no one would know I was Latino, Gay, that I’ve had a psychiatric history, or that I sued anyone. And yet, I’ve made a career of speaking my truth openly about such matters as discrimination, oppression, marginalization, and social abuse in general–and how to evolve and heal from such trauma–from my lived experience of this, speaking publically in person and on film. And as a result, I was ostracized from the mainstream, and from the field in which I had trained and dedicated myself to. Thank goodness, because that’s when I discovered real life, creative freedom, inner peace, grounding, fulfillment, and true abundance.

            So, in addition to other marginal identities which I took on, it was partly racism which, indeed, defined my path. FWIW.

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    • Actually, I think what you’ve got is a discussion about institutional oppression. Racist, sexist, homophobic, elitist, etc., etc. One form of oppression is based on skin color, but it is relative to all these other groups being oppressed by the same institutional system as well. The racist thing goes back to antebellum slavery, and sort of has dibs when it comes to the emancipation issue, but these other oppressed groups have grievances, too, and legitimately so. Deal with the one, and we’re that much closer to dealing with the others. This is a reason for unity rather than divisiveness. Refusal to see in their cause you own only serves the oppressor.

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    • I apologize if it seems I was trying to divert attention from the subject of racism and as I said at the beginning of the post I do agree that racism is an issue in the MH System, also because I am white I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be African American or any other race but I do believe that the MH System discriminates against a majority of people regardless of race who access mental health services and minorities have it even worse. Overall I think we all need to unite and address that this entire system is abusive, corrupt, and disempowers those who come to them for help.

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  12. Statistics from the bureau of justice “… Compared to violent and property offenders,inmates serving time for drug offenses in state prisons showed little racial disparity”

    Drug offenses are similar in ratio, 15% W 16% B 15% H

    Violent offenses 48% W 57% B 59% H

    Rape or sexual offenses year end 2013, “The number of whites
    (78,500 prisoners)… was more than the total of both blacks
    (39,700 prisoners) and Hispanics (37,300 prisoners)”

    “Almost half (48% or 24,400 prisoners) of blacks
    imprisoned in state facilities for public order offenses were
    sentenced for weapons crimes, which include carrying, exhibiting, firing, possessing, or selling a weapon. State prisons held an additional 13,900 Hispanic and 11,200 white prisoners sentenced for weapons crimes.”

    “In 2014, 6% of all black males ages 30 to 39 were in prison,
    compared to 2% of Hispanic and 1% of white males in the same age

    * Violent offenders made up 54% of the state male prison
    population at yearend 2013, the most recent year for which data
    were available.

    * The BOP housed 40,000 prisoners in private secure and nonsecure
    facilities at yearend 2014, which represents 19% of the total
    federal prison population.

    * Half of males (50%) and more than half of females (59%) in
    federal prison were serving time for drug offenses on September
    30, 2014.”

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  13. “With the political tide shifting across the United States and reports of hate crimes increasing daily…”
    Of course the media is reporting it more they want us fighting. DIVIDE AND CONQUER WORKS.
    I don’t need a long post. We all saw the lead up to election 2016. The media took racism off its death bed and gave it steroids.

    Hey look EVERYONE is protesting the government and its killer cops (Eric Garner) quick give racism a shot of steroids, make it grow, say racism on TV all day every day so the stupid people fight each other instead of us tyrants. It worked, its happening.

    As soon as they saw people of all colors in those protests they started the bring back racism campaign, right after Eric Garner.

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    • Democrats and Republicans both play off of racism, but both parties are racist to the core.

      Racism has never been on its death bed; certain events bring out the contradictions which are always there and people react, but that doesn’t mean racism is being “caused” by those events.

      However, if you’re point is that politicians, including Democrats, exploit racism to pander for votes, yes.

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      • When all the white kids are dressing and “acting black”, like most of them have been doing for a decade, racism is on its deathbed. White kids don’t listen to rap and dress like that cause they hate blacks believe me. They say imitation is the greatest flattery or something like that.

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        • Yeah, people have also said that when they’ve *plagiarized* me.

          The_cat, Your comment makes my head hurt… In this instance, imitation is appropriation, and a grand show of *privilege*… Privilege to enjoy what one likes from a culture – what one finds entertaining or what have you – while still benefiting from the privilege of walking through this world white.


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          • And walking through the world as a White person means that you carry a backpack of power and privilege that you were born with, unearned. A backpack that is usually taken for granted and that the person is generally unaware of. It’s just something that they’ve always had, it’s always been there and they didn’t have to do anything to get it.

            And of course, the backpacks of White men are bigger and roomier than the backpacks of White women, again unearned but there simply because of a Y chromosome (it is a Y, right? I’m getting old and can’t remember my biology as well as I once did).

            And watch what happens if anyone points out the presence of the backpack to the owner. You hear denial, exasperation, and even anger while all the time the White person has this incredulous look of surprise and lack of understanding on their face. “What backpack? I don’t have a backpack on my back, what are you talking about??”

            I was born in New Mexico where the indigenous people don’t even have backpacks. My grandfather had us pass for White since we didn’t look like we were First Nations and it benefited us economically and socially to be taken for White. But inside of myself I always knew that the White people I dealt would have treated me much differently if they’d known that I was not White. I was given a backpack by White people because of their assumptions that they made about me because of the color of my skin.

            And I know that I’ll get whacked for this but just couldn’t resist.

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        • White kids don’t listen to rap and dress like that cause they hate blacks believe me.

          Agreed, but you’re talking here about popular culture and social interactions, not the corporate power structure. I do see less overt racism and far more interracial socializing among young people than when I was growing up, which is a very positive thing. Institutional racism, however, is still going strong.

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          • Agreed.

            You can even see this in individual institutions themselves, at least at the state “hospital” where I try to work.

            There are almost no African Americans on the clinical staff. There is one African American psychiatrist out of the 15 on staff. There used to be one African American clinical psychologist but that person wised up and got out while the getting was good. And guess what the predominant race of the so-called “patients” is in this august institution? You guessed it correctly if you stated African American. The clinical staff seems to have little to no understanding of African American culture and this impacts the “treatment” that these “patients” receive.

            As to what causes this imbalance of cultures in this institution probably can’t be answered with one simple answer. Perhaps African American students in med schools are wiser in choosing their medical specialties. Perhaps they realize the controlling aspect that is imbedded in psychiatry since they’ve dealt with control issues socially forever and they don’t want to perpetuate control over people. Perhaps they seek better pay at other private institutions since state “hospital” don’t pay well, at least not in the state where I live and work.

            I’ve only run across one African American psychiatrist in the two, large community “mental health” clinics. Again the predominant race of their forced clients is African American.

            Most psychiatrists seem to lack any understanding of cultural competence and I believe that this has to impact what is done to the “patients” in their control, the majority of which seem to be African American.

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          • Most psychiatrists seem to lack any understanding of cultural competence and I believe that this has to impact what is done to the “patients” in their control, the majority of which seem to be African American.

            Way back when I was last locked up I hung with an inner city Black guy who spoke with the head shrink about wanting to go back home to see his “Queen,” who happened to be named Esther Morris. When we obtained copies of his records later (long story) there was a reference to the patient speaking of a “Queen Esther Morris” — clearly the delusional rantings of someone who thought he was involved with royalty.

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  14. I am assuming that the moderator will delete some of the very disturbing comments left in the middle of the night, but in the mean time I wanted to express my deep sadness at the anger and verbally violent assaults that do nothing but perpetuate suffering. Disagreement, debate, and even scorn for that with which you disagree is where learning and progress can stem from. Suggestions for others to kill themselves or otherwise is vitriol that is emblematic of cruelty. I know that when I write, my foremost intention is to bring awareness to the oppression and violence that many experience, be it ethnic minorities, religious minorities, those in poverty, and/or those who have grown up in abusive or severely dysfunctional family environments. Telling such individuals that their reactions to such life experiences or expressions of pain and sorrow are sure signs of illness, psychosis, or the need for death saddens me to my very core. Where does such hate truly stem from?

    I am reminded of a study conducted several decades ago wherein a group of monkeys was put into a cage and, essentially, trained to beat any monkey who climbed up a ladder (see here: Over time, each monkey was replaced by a monkey who was not conditioned to become violent over something so silly as climbing a ladder. But, then, he was beaten when he dared to climb that entry point to food and learned his lesson quick. By the end of the experiment, all the monkeys would beat a monkey going up the ladder, but had NO IDEA WHY. They did it because everyone else did it and it had been done to them. This is how hatred and violence spread. But, things don’t always have to be that way. Compassion is difficult, particularly for those we are told to hate (and that includes people who attack viciously for no apparent reason), but it is possible. I hope we all can keep working towards expanding these holes in our hearts.

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    • “I hope we all can keep working towards expanding these holes in our hearts.”

      Yes, I agree, this is all about heart healing. But how can that occur in a world filled with hate, resentment, fear, and perpetual divisiveness? That is exactly what wounds the heart. I imagine this is universal, we all have tender hearts, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, state of health, culture, etc. The heart is what connects us to all that is.

      Takes a lot of courage, fortitude and faith to live in one’s heart, because it is rarely understood in today’s society and lends itself to all sorts of stigmatizing projections from cynics and naysayers. Takes a very strong sense of self, too, so that none of that gets under one’s skin. Heart healing is the most powerful healing there is, from my experience, and is exactly from where one finds the clarity to achieve holistic well-being, as well as the power to create desired change, quite naturally.

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  15. After reading this post, i came accross this article. The picture, which didnt come thru, shows a police officer “taking down” the person, and applying handcuffs. The “trigger word” I see is “mental health call.” In other words, the cops enter the scene prepared to deal with a “mental” person. Although the skin color may be white, it looks alot like racism. Also note how the name is freely disclosed with no concern for privacy:

    Two Hinesburg police officers will face no criminal charges for conduct a town resident described as “excessive force,” Chittenden County Deputy State’s Attorney Bram Kranichfeld said.

    Shown in this police body-cam video, Hineburg Police Officer Cameron Coltharp holds down Lori Carron. The two officers, Cameron Coltharp and Jeremy Hulshof, were sued by Lori Ann Carron in June after they responded to her home for a mental health call one month earlier. Carron alleges the two officers caused her “serious physical, emotional and psychological injuries,” according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
    The criminal investigation focused mostly on Coltharp, who Carron says “spun her around and threw her to the floor” even though what had been called in as a domestic assault situation had calmed when police arrived, the complaint states. According to the complaint, Hulshof “failed to intervene” and stop Coltharp from harming Carron.

    Both officers have denied wrongdoing in separate answers to the lawsuit, both saying they “acted in good faith and with probable cause and/or reasonable suspicion.”

    Kranichfeld said his office considers the matter closed “barring new information.” He declined to give further detail about the decision.

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  16. In the UK 2nd Generation Caribbean men are definitely over represented in the Mental Health System. As are Irish men that come from “travelling” backgrounds.

    It’s very easy to be misdiagnosed with mental illness though, because the doctor writes the record; and once the person takes the drugs they develop the illness the drugs are supposed to treat.

    My own recovery was more through changing what was in me, than changing my external circumstances. But I’ve never so far in my life, ever suffered from any real material destitution.

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  17. Oldhead, have you actually read what I’ve posted?

    More and more our societal scapegoats are being found in people who live on welfare, disability, or just by panhandling and recycling cans. Race is a factor here, but not as much as it was when we had a working underclass.

    Today we don’t need a working underclass to maintain work force discipline, as we just need less and less workers. We get our scapegoats right from the middle-class family, aided by psychotherapy, psychiatry, recovery, and healing.

    Help Build An Anti-Psychiatry Movement, Move From Talk To Organizing and Action, please join:


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  18. Racism has always been about keeping society stratified, more than it is about actual racial prejudice.

    Well, today we use the middle-class family and doctors to make people into basket cases. We do this because we don’t need working people as scapegoats, because there is less need for labor.

    But we do still need scapegoats because otherwise the work force, labor and clerical, will become militant and demand higher wages.

    And remember, most treatments are voluntary, except for with children. Forced treatments, while important to outlaw, are still just a small portion of a much bigger picture.

    A Libertarian Anti-Government view will always promote familial child abuse and legitimate psychiatry and psychotherapy, while the survivors are kept passive.


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  19. Good points about pathologizing the impact on individuals of racial oppression and the even heavier use of repressive force in the mh system on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Black women are particularly affected by the double impact of racism and sexism, in both areas of pathologization and disparate repression. Lawyer Stephanie Franklin wrote a shadow report to the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2013, pointing out how African American girls in the foster care system are psychiatrized for ordinary behavior that is wrongly perceived as aggressive (this is race/sex/class/age/vulnerability of being in a kind of state custody). It’s all a system of policing race, and the mental health system should not be involved in policing or coercion/control at all – we need to dismantle all coercive elements of that system including involuntary commitment/involuntary treatment laws, and make sure that disability as an intersectional issue is brought into the discussions of defund the police- invest in communities, where mental health services are being advocated. As my colleague Jolijn Santegoeds says, coercion is not care.

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