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Schizophrenia over-diagnosed in blacks

Jan. 12, 2010 at 1:30 AM   |   Comments

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Jan. 12 (UPI) -- African-American men are over-diagnosed with schizophrenia at a rate at least five times higher than other groups, U.S. researchers say.

Jonathan Metzl of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor examined archives of Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane and learned that black men -- mainly from Detroit during the civil rights era -- were taken there and often misdiagnosed with schizophrenia.

Metzl says the race link to misdiagnosis emerged after the civil rights era began in the 1960s. Many black men came to the hospital during the Detroit riots, dramatically increasing the facility's black population.

How the psychiatric profession defined schizophrenia also changed during this period. In the 1920s through the 1940s, doctors considered the illness as affecting non-violent whites -- mainly women -- but later changed the language to violent, hostile, angry and aggressive as a way to label black men, Metzl says.

"It's an easy thing to say this was racism, but it's a much more complicated story -- that's still playing out in present day," Metzl, author of the book, "The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease," says.

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