The Color of Trust

root - Posted on 01 March 2000

PNN columnist Leroy Moore explains the impact of AB1800 on African American mental health consumers.

by Leroy F. Moore Jr.

In a recent study, reserchers at the Universtiy of California at Berkeley School of Social Welfare found that at least one-third of Blacks receiving psychiatric care in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay area emergency wards were given twice the dosage of an anti-psychotic drug, compared with patients of other races. This is not surpising because African Americans have a long history of being over-medicated by the mental health system.

Now some California legislators are looking at expanding forced treatment under Assembly Bill 1800 (AB 1800), authored by Assembly Members Thomson and Senator Perata. AB 1800 will expand involuntary treatment for people with mental illness. What some legislators in Sacramento are missing is that people of color, especially African Americans, already have a mistrust of the mental health system, seeing it as yet another racially biased correctional facitity. Expanding involuntary treatment will only strengthen the mistrust of the mental health system, and will also strengthen the mistrust that people of color have with this system..

The 1997-98 annual report from San Francisco's Mental Health Board confirms that most mental health providers are white, but their clientele is overwhelminglycomprised of people of color. To add to this picture, Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, wrote in the New York Times that the American Psychiatric Association is predominately white and male. Of its current 38,2000 members, only 2.3 percent are African Americans. This suggests one reason why African Americans are misdiagnosed and over represented as schizophrenic. Also, both Dr. William Lawson at John McClellan Veteran Hospital in North Little Rock, Ark. and Keh-Ming Lin, M.D. M.P.H., of the center on Psychobiology of Ethnicity at UCLA Medical Center found the above statement to be true in their work and research.

California's and the nation's mental health system need to be revamped from the bottom up by diversifying input to include the voices of people of color in policy making. As the system stands today with a lack of diversity, misdiagnoses and over-medicating, it is no wonder there is a mistrust of the system by the African American community. AB 1800 will further this mistrust, causing African Americans to resist reaching out for help because of the real fear of being involuntarily treated: in clearer terms, of being locked up for being mentally ill. African Americans are over-medicated because of societt's conditioned fear of them. AB 1800 is just one more avenue to control and incarcerate American Americans.

The fear of institutionalization and forced treatment of medication will crumble the already weak foundation of communication between mental health professionals and people of color.

For more information, contact;
Leroy F. Moore Jr.
Founder & Chair of Disability Advocates of Minorities Organization, DAMO
phone: 415.695.0156
fax: 415.647.5932


Sign-up for POOR email!