The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease

Jan 14, 2013

The recent and somewhat controversial changes to the manual to diagnose mental illness, also known as the DSM-5, will become official later this spring. Edits to the manual are based around an evolving understanding of mental disorders, which historically, haven’t always been accurate. A shocking diagnosis took hold at the height of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s, when thousands of young black men were arrested at protests and sent to the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Michigan, where they were systematically diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Jonathan Metzl is Professor of Psychiatry and author of “The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease.” We spoke to him in 2010, when his book was released, and asked him about the historical conflict between mental illness as a biochemical problem, and a social construct.