Institutional racism in psychiatry: author's response

  • Singh S
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Responds to the comments by R. M. Murray & P. Fearon (see record 2007-15739-003); K. Patel & C. Heginbotham (see record 2007-15739-004); and K. McKenzie & K. Bhui (see record 2007-15739-005) on the current author's original article "Institutional racism in psychiatry: Lessons from inquiries" (see record 2007-15739-002). Scientific hypotheses should be in principle testable and the onus lies on the one proposing the hypothesis to present supporting evidence. The assertions about institutional racism in psychiatry have never been based on evidence. Instead the onus is placed on services to prove that they are not institutionally racist. We should therefore first agree that the charge of institutional racism is an ideological position rather than a scientific fact. The necessity for psychiatric detention is predicated on the nature and severity of illness, need for treatment, presence of risk and lack of alternatives to hospitalisation. There is some evidence that factors contributing to detention, such as social isolation, delay in help-seeking, stigma, ethnic differences in family attribution, lack of general practitioner and help-seeker, and lack of community support are higher in some minority groups. Where is the evidence that it is institutional racism and discriminatory practice rather than such socioeconomic and clinical differences that lead to differences in detention rates? I do not misunderstand the concept of institutional racism, nor did I create a 'straw man'. I simply pointed out that the claim of institutional racism is scientifically hollow, empirically untestable and clinically corrosive in everyday psychiatric practice. The bogey man of psychiatric discrimination has been created by those who seek to 'radalise' all differences between population groups, ignoring the complex socioeconomic and cultural variables for which race and ethnicity are proxies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)




Singh, S. P. (2007). Institutional racism in psychiatry: author’s response. Psychiatric Bulletin, 31(10), 370.

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