Psychiatrists Demand an Independent Commission to Tackle Racism in Psychiatry

Over 150 psychiatrists have signed a letter urging the Royal Collge of Psychiatrists to address institutional racism and colonialism.

Peter Simons
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Over 150 members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists have written a letter to the incoming president of that body, Adrian James, urging him to address “institutional racism and colonial mentality” within the psychiatric establishment.

The letter, signed by 166 members of the College, calls on the Royal College of Psychiatrists to set up an independent commission to examine racist biases in the training curricula and practice guidelines set forth by the College.

The letter comes amid US protests against police violence after the murder by police of George Floyd, a Black American. A number of large protests occurred in solidarity in the UK.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is the professional medical body for psychiatrists in the UK, certifying them to practice there. It creates and provides training curricula to psychiatrists and students, as well as publishing books, research articles, and guidelines regarding mental health concerns intended for professionals and the layperson.

The signees of the letter acknowledge James’ commitment to appointing two “presidential leads for race equality,” but suggests that an independent commission could more clearly “root out” the problems of racism, colonialism, and bias that lie at the heart of psychiatry.

The letter reminds James of psychiatry’s historical role as enforcers of social order, particularly in authoritarian regimes. “Historically, psychiatry has colluded with eugenic mass murder in Nazi Germany and labeled civil rights protesters and political dissidents as psychotic,” the letter reads.

However, the writers make clear that this is not merely a historical situation—it is an ongoing problem.

“To this day we continue to disproportionately incarcerate black people and coerce them into treatment. Moreover, if you are black you are more likely to die under restraint whilst receiving mental health care than if you are white.”

The letter also addresses the colonial mindset of the psychiatric establishment, referring to countless studies that have framed cultures as “primitive” and dismissed indigenous approaches to understanding emotional distress as “superstitions.”

The letter calls for including service users and experts on institutional racism and colonialism in the independent commission. It reads:

“We hope you will see this as we do; as a once in a generation opportunity to put psychiatry at the forefront in tackling systemic racism and the malignant legacies of colonialism in medicine and society at large.”

8 COMMENTS

  1. “Historically, psychiatry has colluded with eugenic mass murder in Nazi Germany”

    Psychiatry didn’t just collude it was absolutely central. The psychiatrists worked out the way to mass murder in 6 psychiatric hospitals and this directly translated to the holocaust. This is very important to understand, it is equally important to understand that the Americans funded German eugenics and this meant during the doctors trial in Nuremborg they were not held to account for murder and major crimes against humanity. The lead investigator Leo Alexander was a psychiatrist, advocate of electro shock, insulin shock and according to Peter Breggin an early eugenacist.

    When Michael Von Cranach who researched by looking at the medical notes of patients during this era he could find the point at which the psychiatrist decided ‘I will kill this patient’ he said ‘the psychiatrist started making negative value judgements’ calling the patients ‘useless’ and such like.

    Right now we have psychiatrists causing an epidemic of akathisia induced horror shows, death, suicide and violence and very much knowingly so.

    Peter Gøtzsche gained access to 30 psych patients records and found people in fear of their lives from being made to take neuroleptics plus a psychiatrist recording that a patient had Akathisia and contining with the “medication” in other words knowingly torturing the patient. This is so so important and such research needs to be done on a much wider basis:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTskSu5fOTQ&feature=youtu.be&t=2310

    For those of you who do not know what Akathisia is and how seriously horrific it is, watch this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLWgVpmo1e0&feature=youtu.be&t=1020

  2. Psychiatry should not be “put at the forefront in tackling systemic racism,” since the entire psychiatric theology is based upon stigmatizing and othering people, which is basically the same thing as racism.

    Although racists are not often hypocrites, pretending they’re there to help the “other,” like the psychiatrists. Plus racists don’t systemically neurotoxic poison people.

    I will say, however, both racism and psychiatry do murder millions of innocent people, because they believe they are better than the “other,” the person they stigmatized.

  3. I’m delighted that the power of the Black Lives Matter movement has compelled psychiatrists to challenge the racist theory and practice embedded in their profession.

    However, I disagree that it is possible to “root out the problems of racism, colonialism, and bias that lie at the heart of psychiatry.”

    Racism cannot be purged from capitalism, from the police, or from psychiatry, because racism is necessary for their existence.

    “To maintain capitalist rule, it is necessary to cap people’s expectations for a better life by using police to criminalize dissent and psychiatrists to medicalize it.” (https://susanrosenthal.com/strategies/cops-criminalize-protest-psychiatrists-medicalize-it/)

    Of course, we want and should demand a less-racist capitalism, police, and psychiatry. However, “less-racist” is not good enough.

    We can purge racism from the world by fighting for a society that doesn’t need it — a socialist society collectively managed by workers for their common good.

    • In a tribal society a creative person can have value especially when the tribe is under pressure, but in an industrial society people that don’t conform are an “excess to requirements”. “Schizophrenia” was invented around the same time as the industrial revolution.

      There were lots of other things around prior to the industrial revolution, but no “schizophrenia”. Once the medications arrived – the job was done. The “schizophrenics” could be “switched off”.

  4. ““To this day we continue to disproportionately incarcerate black people and coerce them into treatment. Moreover, if you are black you are more likely to die under restraint whilst receiving mental health care than if you are white.”

    Maybe the first action should be to look in the mirror and see how your profession is structured to maintain oppressive conditions and excuse the oppressors while “diagnosing” the oppressed. Or would that be too simple?

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