Harlingen Attorney Asks the Controversial Question: Are Mental Diagnoses Based on Racial Bias?

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Attorney Ricardo Barrera warns in latest blog post that minorities who do not live up to the ideal concept of an educated European American can be labelled mentally ill and discriminated against.

Are Mental Diagnoses Based on Racial Bias?

Are Mental Diagnoses Based on Racial Bias?

“I wish to point out that those who feel they are being racially discriminated should take a stand,” says Barrera. “Failure to racially assimilate is not a mental disorder.

In a recent blog post on his website, Harlingen attorney Ricardo Barrera asks if a Mexican American child should be labeled as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) if the child cannot learn to read and write in English well? Or if a Mexican American elderly women should be labeled “hyper-religious” if they communicate with God or the Holy Spirit? He points out that the answers to these questions are really no longer relevant because the diagnoses are already occurring to many.

“Racial profiling in the diagnosis of mental illness is a recognized problem,” warns Barrera. “A number of studies and articles have been written about it.”

He cites an article from Alisha Ali, PHD from NYU in which she discusses the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) which is a constantly growing catalogue of mental disorders first published in 1952.

Ali writes, “The central issue underlying the problem of racial bias in psychiatric diagnosis is the dominance of a white, Western viewpoint in psychiatry. Because of this viewpoint, the kinds of behavior most likely to be considered normal in DSM classification are those that are acceptable within mainstream society.”

Further, Washington Post reporter Shankar Vedantam wrote in a 2005 article, “John Zeber recently examined one of the nation’s largest databases of psychiatric cases to evaluate how doctors diagnose schizophrenia . . . [t]he scientist found that blacks in the United States were more than four times as likely to be diagnosed with the disorder as whites. Hispanics were more than three times as likely to be diagnosed as whites. Zeber, who studies quality, cost and access issues for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, found that differences in wealth, drug addiction and other variables could not explain the disparity in diagnoses: “The only factor that was truly important was race.”

“I wish to point out that those who feel they are being racially discriminated should take a stand,” says Barrera. “Failure to racially assimilate is not a mental disorder.”

ABOUT RICARDO BARRERA
Ricardo A. Barrera is a South Texas attorney that currently practices law in the Rio Grande Valley. Mr. Barrera graduated with honors from Texas A&M University-Kingsville where he was also elected student body president. Mr. Barrera went on to graduate from Texas Tech University School of Law where he won a national championship on moot court. Mr. Barrera has been commended by both the Texas House of Representatives and his U.S. Congressman for working above and beyond to help others in defending their rights.

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