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By Dr Suman Fernando, Visit Amazon's Suman Fernando Page, search results, Learn about Author Central, Suman Fernando, , David Ndegwa, Melba Wilson

Forensic psychiatry is the self-discipline which distinguishes the 'mad' from the 'bad', yet are its values inherently racist? Why are contributors from non-Western backgrounds over-represented statistically in these clinically determined with schizophrenia and different critical health problems? The authors argue that the values on which psychiatry relies are firmly rooted in ethnocentric Western tradition, with profound implications for person prognosis and platforms of care.Through precise exploration of the historical past of psychiatry, present medical concerns and current public coverage, this robust publication strains the expansion of a method within which non-conformity to the existing cultural norms dangers alienation and analysis of psychological affliction.

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In the light of the discussions about modern racism and ethnicity, it is necessary to examine the category ‘black’ when applied to people with diverse subjective positions, social experiences and cultural identities—represented by categories used for identifying ethnicity. As Stuart Hall (1992) points out, it is no longer adequate politically to contend ‘that all black people are the same (1992: 254, original emphasis). The challenge today is to ‘be able to build those forms of solidarity and identification which make common struggle and resistance possible but without suppressing the real heterogeneity of interests and identities, and which can effectively draw the political boundary lines without which political contestation is impossible, without fixing those boundaries for eternity’ (1992:254–5).

E. the categories of ‘schizophrenia’ and ‘mood disorder’ (or manic depression) in the latest version, The Classification of Mental Disorder and Behavioural Disorders (ICD– 10) (World Health Organisation, 1992). The American Psychiatric Association has taken a similar approach in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) since DSM–III (1980)—the latest being DSM–IV (1994). However, some odd events have occurred in this essentially political process of achieving agreement between important people from various countries, mainly from Europe but latterly including Japan and India.

Jones (1981) notes that eighty-four per cent of all genetic variation results from genetic difference between individuals belonging to the same tribe or nationality, six per cent from differences between tribes or nationalities, and ten per cent from genetic divergence between ‘racial’ groups. ‘In other words the genetic differences between the classically described races of man are on the average only slightly greater than those which exist between nations within a racial group, and the genetic differences between individual human beings within a population are far larger than either of these’ (1981: 189).

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