‘Black psychologists are like black doctors’: Are black doctors like black psychologists?

If you’re a black doctor, then you’re probably an “inspirational” doctor, and that’s probably a good thing, but there’s also a darker side to the profession.

It’s not just the fact that you’re white, but the fact you’re in a profession that many people see as racially biased.

For example, black psychologists are considered “inspiring” in their field because they’re “all about doing the right thing”, but they’re also accused of being racist for suggesting that black people might benefit from the diagnosis of schizophrenia.

These views are not uncommon among psychologists, but in the case of black psychologists they’ve been used to push the idea that they’re not qualified to diagnose black people with mental illness. 

It’s not surprising that black psychologists have had to take on a little bit of controversy over their role in black culture, but how can they be “inspiration” if they are accused of racism? 

“Black psychologists don’t get a lot of exposure to black culture because there are very few black people in the medical profession.

So for a lot black people, there’s a very low expectation of what a black person is,” says Natasha Robinson, a black female professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

“If they hear that a black woman has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, they might assume that she’s somehow not a doctor.”

Robinson explains that the stigma surrounding black people’s mental health is so entrenched that black and white psychologists are often left out of discussions about mental illness and the connection to race.

“It’s almost like we don’t have an understanding of the mental health of people of color,” she says.

Robinson is a black professor of mental health at the university and she’s been in the field for over 20 years. 

“We’re the only black person in the department, so we don, on some level, have a sense of responsibility in terms of being black and being a doctor,” she explains. 

The stigma surrounding mental illness is so ingrained that black doctors are often not even considered qualified to treat black patients.

Natasha Robinson says black psychologists should be qualified to “diagnose” black people as mentally ill. 

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2014, black respondents were more likely than white respondents to believe that mental illness was caused by race and the researchers were more than twice as likely to believe this about black people than white people.

In the US, a survey conducted by the National Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Research in 2015 found that white Americans were the most likely to admit to mental illness, while black Americans were second.

Robinson says she feels that a lack of visibility has helped push black doctors into the “black doctor’s corner” of the field.

“There’s this stigma about being black, about being in the mental healthcare industry,” she adds.

“I’m trying to be honest, but if you’re black and you’re an African American doctor, you’re really just like, ‘Oh, that’s the stereotype.

That’s the racism.’

And you’re not in the position of being a white person to do a proper diagnosis, because it’s such a black industry.” 

“I’m going to keep fighting for my profession” In an effort to get more people to take mental health seriously, Robinson started an online petition calling for psychologists to be paid a living wage.

“The majority of us are living in poverty.

We have to pay our bills and feed our families, and we’re not making enough money to make ends meet,” she said. 

In order to have the money to pay their bills, many psychologists rely on student loans to pay for living expenses.

“We have no other option. If we don