Kalathil & Faulkner: Racialisation and knowledge production: A critique of the report ‘Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia’

Racialisation and knowledge production: A critique of the report ‘Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia‘ by Jayasree Kalathil and Alison Faulkner, Mental Health Today, Jan-Feb 2015, 22-23


understanding psychosis pageNovember 2014 saw the launch of Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia by the British Psychological Society’s (BPS) Division of Clinical Psychology (Cooke (ed), 2014). The report undertakes an overview of what we know about why some people hear voices, experience paranoia or have experiences generally termed ‘psychosis’ or diagnosed as ‘schizophrenia’,and offers ways of helping people undergoing these experiences.

The report was hailed, at its launch in London, as heralding a ‘paradigm shift’ and received widespread positive media coverage. It is an impressive, aspirational document, beautifully illustrated and easily accessible to a lay audience. More than a quarter of the 24-member working party who contributed to the report were people who had direct personal experience of hearing voices, paranoia and receiving a diagnosis of psychosis or schizophrenia. While not entirely critical of bio-medical approaches in understanding and treating psychosis, the report points out the limits of these approaches and calls for other approaches to be given equal consideration.

However, there is a conspicuous absence in the report of any meaningful engagement with the more than 60 years of scholarship about ‘race’,ethnicity and psychiatry/psychology, especially around the theorisation and experience of schizophrenia. This lack of engagement is also evident in the absence of professionals or service users/survivors from racialised communities in the working party and in the apparent lack of attempt to gain their views in its production. In this article, we ask whether it is possible to talk about paradigm shifts in the context of psychosis and, especially, schizophrenia while not addressing issues relating to black and minority ethnic (BME) communities, arguably communities most affected by how we collectively understand and work with these diagnostic and ontological categories …

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