MichaelCD - The Blog.

The thoughts of Michael Cadwallader. Coffee loving, history book reading, Cheshire man.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Another Pointless Crusade

Doncaster Central MP and Labour minister for 'Health Services', Rosie Winterton, is quoted on a mental health website calling for "rapid improvement in the way mental health services respond to the needs of BME patients". BME, to the uninitiated, means black and minority ethnic, and she is referring to the fact that ethnic groups are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems. In fact, Afro-Caribbean's are 3 to 5 times more likely to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital for schizophrenia than any other group.

When differences exist between racial groups, the iron law of race-relations says that hand-wringing must ensue, then large amounts of money in 'tackling' the problem, and, finally, if all else has failed, mention the r-word. Winterton is at the 'tackling' stage, she explains:

One in five people treated in hospital for a mental health problem comes from a black and minority ethnic background. Although some of the reasons for this - such as social exclusion - cannot be tackled by the NHS in isolation, we still have a moral and legal duty to do more.

Some communities view mental health services with mistrust and are dissatisfied with their care.

Our DRE action plan sets out very clearly what positive steps services need to take to address this situation. We have also backed this up with resources, such as funding to recruit 500 community development workers. Now, with the help of this new guidance, front-line professionals can play their part.

Blink, however, just comes out and uses the r-word:

There is no justification whatsoever for Black people to be disproportionately sectioned, detained, over-medicated or restrained. The only explanation is racism and stereotyping within the health system.

So, poverty, social exclusion, racism, under-funding - all are quoted. But are we really sure that this could be cause the of all the mental health ills for minorities? Clearly, the likes of Blink are always going to cry 'racism', but they also are rather coy about the fact that people of Chinese descent do not have anywhere near the same rate of mental health problems. It cannot be true that 'racism' within the health service is only directed against Asians and Blacks, and not against Chinese.

So, could there actually be another, more plausible explanation for the differing rates of mental health problems in minorities and the White population? I think the answer is a resounding yes. Dennis Mangan has produced many posts on the subject of vitamin D. In this one, he cites an article by M. J. Dealberto, which makes the link between deficiency in the vitamin, and mental health rates:
Hmmm, dark skin, northern climes, could it be? Yes, vitamin D:

This article proposes two biological hypotheses related to changes in sun exposure, changes in diet, and stress associated with immigration, which would explain the increased risk for psychosis associated with immigrant status. (1) Vitamin D insufficiency has been proposed as a risk factor for schizophrenia. The main source of vitamin D is through photosynthesis by sun exposure, and dark skins need more sun exposure to maintain adequate blood levels. Vitamin D insufficiency in adulthood could explain why dark-skinned immigrants develop psychosis when moving to high latitude countries, and its insufficiency during pregnancy could explain why the observed risk is higher in the second generation.
Therefore, if this conclusion is correct, and it seems fairly logical to me, Rosie Winterton's attempts to stamp out differences between mental health rates, will be futile. But, I suppose such a conclusion would not be particularly popular with politicians; the solution to it doesn't involve hand-wringing or using words like 'exclusion', and, worst of all, points out differences between racial groups - something we all know cannot be said to exist.

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At 2:43 am, Blogger nzconservative said...

Racial differences in the mental health are an interesting area.
Apparently East Asians actually have the highest rates for anxiety disorders although they don't get hospitalised for serious thought disorders very much.

Whites seem to have high rates for things like ADHD and OCD.

Blacks and indigenous people (such as Aborigines and Maori)tend to have lower rates of neuroticism but when they do get mental problems they seem to be more prone to severe thought disorders e.t.c.


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