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Psychiatr Serv. 2010 May;61(5):508-11. doi: 10.1176/

The psychiatric rehabilitation of African Americans with severe mental illness.

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Department of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, 2 Whipple Pl., Suite 202, Lebanon, NH 03766, USA.


African Americans make up approximately 12% of the U.S. population, a total of around 36 million people. Evidence suggests that African Americans suffer from significant and persistent disparities within the mental health system. African Americans with severe mental illness are less likely than Euro-Americans to access mental health services, more likely to drop out of treatment, more likely to receive poor-quality care, and more likely to be dissatisfied with care. Dominant patterns of treatment for African Americans with psychiatric disabilities are often least suited to long-term rehabilitation. To be successful, interventions must simultaneously target three levels: macro, provider, and patient. Five domains are posited that cut across these levels. These are cross-cultural communication, discrimination, explanatory models, stigma, and family involvement. These need appropriate research and action to enhance the psychiatric rehabilitation of African Americans. Potential solutions to overcome barriers raised within these domains are suggested.

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