In Our Own Voice: African-American stories of oppression, survival and recovery in mental health systems— Vanessa Jackson

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A review of the history of mental health includes few references to the African-American experience. Robert Meinsma’s Brief History of Mental Therapy offers a review of philosophical and medical views on mental illness dating back to 600 BC that includes nearly a thousand entries. However, this very comprehensive document boasts fewer than five entries pertaining to the experiences of people of African descent. A similar criticism can be offered of the timeline compiled by the American Psychological Association (Street 2001). African-Americans have a presence in America dating back to at least 1619 when the first African indentured servants arrived in America (Bennett 1993).This chapter attempts to supplement the official records by offering a few accounts of African-American psychiatric survivors’ experiences, and the philosophy and policies that guided the treatment of our ancestors and which still influence our treatment today.