Cultural Diversity, Mental Health and Psychiatry: The Struggle against Racism

Cultural Diversity, Mental Health and Psychiatry: The Struggle against Racism

Cultural Diversity, Mental Health and Psychiatry: The Struggle against Racism

Cultural Diversity, Mental Health and Psychiatry: The Struggle against Racism

Synopsis

According to the National Service Framework for mental health published by the Department of Health in 1999, black and minority ethnic communities have little confidence in mental health services.

Excerpt

Britain is often referred to as a multicultural society, and cultural diversity is seen as a hallmark of a modern public service-be it in health, education or social care-that is equitable and open to all sections of society. Yet mental health services are frequently held to be insensitive to culture, psychiatrists and psychologists are said to be culturally incompetent and psychiatric and psychological therapies appear to be inappropriate for many people from nonwestern cultural backgrounds. On the one hand, much has been written that explores ways in which services may achieve cultural sensitivity or how professionals can become culturally competent; and many authorities that are responsible for delivering mental health services have policies to address race and culture, and some even have strategies to improve their services for black and other minority ethnic groups. a national strategy (about to be made available for consultation at the time of writing) has been drafted for this purpose within the (British) National Service Framework for Mental Health (Department of Health 1999). However, I have heard users of mental health services claim that services with impressive policies for cultural diversity are not necessarily any better than those without such policies; that training professionals to become culturally competent does not always mean that they treat black people any differently; that diagnoses do not make much sense, especially the diagnosis of schizophrenia; and that decision making in the allocation of therapies is often racially biased. Notwithstanding local or national strategies, a multicultural mental health service backed by a multicultural psychiatry and psychology seems to be as far off as ever. How can all this be addressed? Are the problems concerned with 'culture' or with 'race'-racism to be more exact-or with both? Have the right issues

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