HEALTH SERVICES: Diagnosis of mental patients `affected by race prejudice'

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Mental health services are discriminating against African and Afro-Caribbean patients, a report today claims.

A survey by the mental health charity Mind found African and Afro-Caribbean people are more likely to be diagnosed as schizophrenic, detained in locked wards and treated with higher doses of medication than other ethnic groups.

The "Raised Voices" report is based on the experiences of 100 African and Afro-Caribbean mental health service users in England and Wales.

It found 43 per cent of respondents were diagnosed as schizophrenic and only 8 per cent with depression. This compares with a 14 per cent diagnosis of schizophrenia and 51 per cent depression among other groups of the population.

Thirty-two per cent had received counselling and 17 per cent psychotherapy - almost half the level given to whites.

In an attempt to tackle these issues, the charity will launch a number of new initiatives at a national conference in London today. These will include a new government-funded unit called Diverse Minds which will help to develop and deliver training for mental health workers and community groups.

Judi Clements, chief executive of Mind, said: "Increasing amounts of evidence point to the inability of current mental health services to meet the diverse needs of Britain's communities - people have been telling us that they do not feel understood when they are in great distress. There are some extremely good examples of projects and practice that are truly responsive to people's needs, but these are too few and far between."