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J Health Soc Behav. 2003 Sep;44(3):292-301.

Critical race theory speaks to the sociology of mental health: mental health problems produced by racial stratification.

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Department of Sociology, 2301 Vanderbilt Place, VU Station B, Box 351811, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37235-1811, USA.


The sociology of mental health focuses on the epidemiology, etiology, correlates, and consequences of mental health (i.e., psychiatric disorder and symptoms, psychological distress, and subjective well-being) in an attempt to describe and explain how social structure influences an individual's psychological health. Critical race theory describes and explains iterative ways in which race is socially constructed across micro- and macro-levels, and how it determines life chances implicating the mundane and extraordinary in the continuance of racial stratification (i.e., racism). This paper invoked critical race theory to inform the sociology of mental health's approach to studying race and mental health by conceptualizing five hypothetical mental health problems that could exist because of racial stratification. These problems were: (1) nihilistic tendencies, (2) anti-self issues, (3) suppressed anger expression, (4) delusional denial tendencies, and (5) extreme racial paranoia. Mental health problems such as these and undocumented others can only be recognized given awareness of the social and personal implications of racial stratification.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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