Tag Archives: Ionia State Hospital

Psychology Today: “How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease”—Civil rights protesters were labeled schizophrenic

By the mid-to-late-1960s, however, schizophrenia was a diagnosis disproportionately applied to the hospital’s growing population of African-American men from urban Detroit. Perhaps the most shocking evidence I uncovered was that hospital charts “diagnosed” these African American men in part because of their symptoms, but also because of their connections to the civil rights movement. Many of the men were sent to Ionia after convictions for crimes that ranged from armed robbery to participation in civil-rights protests, to property destruction during periods of civil unrest, such as the Detroit riots of 1968. Charts stressed how hallucinations and delusions rendered these men as threats, not only to other patients, but also to clinicians, ward attendants, and to society itself.