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African Americans constitute about 12 percent of the United States population. Sixty percent of African Americans live in urban areas, and 25 percent have incomes below the poverty level. Issues in the psychiatric assessment and evaluation of African-American patients include diagnostic bias that has resulted in overdiagnosis of schizophrenia. Use of screening instruments can help standardize assessment, but appropriate screening instruments that have been evaluated and found reliable in this population must be used. Issues in treatment and outcome for African Americans include challenges in establishing rapport in interethnic situations, racial identity as a focus in psychotherapy, and awareness of biological characteristics that affect response to medications. Many African Americans live in high-crime areas where high rates of drug abuse and violence create chronic stresses. Patients with dual diagnoses of chronic mental illness and substance use or abuse need targeted interventions. Strategies for prevention and treatment of the effects of having experienced or witnessed violence have been proposed. Additional research is needed to clarify the true prevalence of specific mental disorders among African Americans and to determine the most effective combinations of treatment strategies for various disorders. (Authors)
Psychiatric Services
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A program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services