Psychiatry for People of African Descent in the USA

  • Carl Bell
  • Christine M. Crawford
Part of the Current Clinical Psychiatry book series (CCPSY)


People of African Descent (PAD) in the USA are comprised of both African Americans—who have marched a rough terrain, from roots in Africa to crossing the ocean to the USA, experiencing enslavement and for some, to present-day mass incarceration—and more recent African and Caribbean immigrants. For some African Americans, the path through American slavery has led many to exposure of significant collective and personal trauma that deeply influences their mental and physical health. For other PAD who had voluntarily immigrated to the USA, the path has been one of historical colonialism, national independence, and recent immigration. In order to effectively treat and even prevent mental disorders in PAD, it is important to know and appreciate the history, context, and dynamics that influence this diverse group of people. Without this knowledge and subsequent deliberate responses, the mental and emotional strife that some PAD face will persist. This chapter provides a description of the history, context, and dynamics that influence the mental health and wellness of PAD in the USA. The authors also identify and delineate treatment needs, suggest ways to address these needs, delineate gaps within the system, and provide recommendations for next steps. Ideally, after reading this chapter, readers will have taken one step forward along their path to better the mental health treatment of African Americans and have an idea of directions for future learning and growth. Unfortunately, our information about the recent PAD immigrants is just beginning to be unearthed, so we will need to be patient until we can speak more authoritatively about these populations’ issues.


Depression Cortisol Income Schizophrenia Serotonin Cultural Competence 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl Bell
    • 1
    • 2
  • Christine M. Crawford
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Medical-Surgical/Psychiatric Inpatient Unit, Jackson Park HospitalChicagoUSA
  2. 2.University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryMassachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA
  4. 4.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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