British researchers have demonstrated that African-Caribbean people are six times more likely than their white counterparts to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, even though this is nothing to do with biology, they say.
The analysis, carried out by the Institute of Psychiatry, has found that poor social conditions are causing black people to develop the symptoms of the distressing mental illness.
The high rates of black people inside the UK’s psychiatric system have concerned both the medical profession and the black community for (too) many years.
And the government's mental health chief admitted that the mental health system is institutionally racist.
Image credit The University of Manchester
National Director of Mental Health, Professor Louis Appleby, who is British Professor of Psychiatry who leads the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England and directs the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, also running the Centre for Mental Health and Safety at the University of Manchester, on BBC Two's Newsnight declared: "If by that you mean that the system operates to the disadvantage of some racial groups, I do not doubt that.
"But that is not to say that individuals working in the system are deliberately racist because there's quite a lot of concern - there's no complacency in the mental health service about this.
"People are very concerned and very aware that we do not provide a satisfactory service for ethnic minorities," he pointed out. We live in a huge disproportionate system where there is an unequal number of black men inside the hostels, hospitals and secure units of Britain's mental health care system.
These findings then lead many to have symptoms of schizophrenia, which can include erratic behaviour and feelings of paranoia.
Yet, academics from the Institute of Psychiatry also investigated whether black people were somehow genetically more prone to schizophrenia, investigating other biological reason, such as brain damage at birth, head injury or drug abuse, but the answer was no. The analysis highlighted that rates among black people in the Caribbean were identical to the white population to the UK, even though when researchers compared the backgrounds of black patients, they were less likely to have suffered psychiatric injuries than white patients and were no more likely to be drug users.
The Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London. Image credit King’s College London
Specifically, even though 75% of white patients with schizophrenia had some biological reason for their illness, in black patients the percentage drops to 25%.
Several brain scans for the analysis demonstrated that white patients were three times more likely to have something wrong with their brain than black patients.
Professor Robin Murray declared that: "It seems to be something in the social environment, something about being black in Britain.
"The experience of black people in the UK almost drives them mad."
Eventually, he and his team concluded that the psychiatric profession may sometimes be wrong with the behaviour of black patients who are not mentally ill but struggling to cope with social adversity.
Dr Kwame Mackenzie, of Haringey Healthcare Trust, explained that part of the problem might be that the diagnosis of schizophrenia has been based entirely on the experience of white people for too many years, thus having no theoretical model on a black person to study.
"The concept of schizophrenia was a concept that was generated out of the white, European tradition.
"It is believed that you can use the same bunch of symptoms to diagnose schizophrenia in African-Caribbean people in the UK.
"But nobody has ever bothered to find out whether that is true, whether the diagnosis of schizophrenia is as valid in the African-Caribbean community as it is in the white community."