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

By Suman Fernando | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Psychiatric stigma and racism

The term stigma denotes a marker, either visible or implied, that discredits a person or group of people (Goffman, 1968). However, the marker itself carries baggage of its own in terms of feelings, attitudes and historical happenings. It is not just people, or groups of people, who are affected by stigma but stigma may be attached to a diagnosis of illness; stigma with respect to a psychiatric diagnosis is called 'psychiatric stigma'. In the past the main illness that was stigmatised was leprosy-interestingly in western but not in non-Western cultures (Fabrega 1991b)-and more recently AIDS has been stigmatised. Many psychiatric diagnoses are stigmatised but the main object of psychiatric stigma today is schizophrenia (Cannon 2001).

There is a long history of racism in western culture (Chapter 1). Sometimes racial designations have become stigmatised and used in order to disempower and oppress people. Thus, the designation 'Negro' was such a term. Often racial designations collect baggage to become terms of abuse, or at least ones that imply disparagement of some sort. 'Coloured' is such a term in Britain today, but possibly not in some other places such as Canada where 'people of color' is an acceptable description of certain groups of people. Being called black used to have a stigma in the US until this was reversed by the Black Power movement of the 1960s. Of course, racial groups are not all stigmatised but the words used in racial descriptions often have implications because of the context in which they are used. Thus, what is often implied in western countries when people are referred to as white and non-white is that the latter lack something that the former have, that non-white people are deficient in some way-the context being one of white supremacy. In a similar vein, the state of being white is assumed to

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figure, Tables and Boxes x
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Background 9
  • Chapter 1 - Racism and Cultural Diversity 11
  • Chapter 2 - Responding to Racism, Addressing Culture 46
  • Part II - Underlying Themes 87
  • Chapter 3 - Psychiatry and Mental Health from a Transcultural Perspective 89
  • Chapter 4 - Psychiatric Stigma and Racism 146
  • Part III - Changing Practice 169
  • Chapter 5 - Moving Forward 171
  • Chapter 6 - Future Prospects 208
  • References 218
  • Index 243
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