Why Racial Representation Matters in Mental Health Care

It’s a well-documented medical reality that some patients get worse care simply because of who they are.
Women who go to the ER with acute abdominal pain are less likely to receive a painkiller; those who do wait longer for it than men who show up with similar symptoms. Obese people have shorter visits with their doctors and get less health education than their thinner counterparts.

But does the quality of treatment also vary depending on the race of the doctor? Specifically, do African Americans who have mental health problems get more effective care from clinicians of their own race?

A growing number of researchers argue the answer is yes.

African Americans make up only four percent of the nation’s physicians, less than a third of their share of the US population. The lack of diversity is even starker among psychologists, just two percent of whom are African American.

At the same time, studies have shown clinicians are more likely to underdiagnose psychiatric conditions in African American patients than in white patients. They tend to