RESEARCH VIGNETTE 

Title of study: A phenomenological examination of racial injustice in people of African descent

Mike’s story

Mike is a young Black man who has lived his whole life in London. Growing up, Mike hated school. Whenever trouble occurred, teachers usually assumed he was responsible. Mike felt treated as though he was not expected to do well unlike other children. He eventually believed he was not as clever as the other students and, began to feel out of place in school. In his early teens Mike started avoiding school and truanting which resulted in him getting expelled. His white peers were given warnings for similar infractions.

To fill his days, Mike spent much time on the streets of London. At about 17, he experimented with cannabis. Shortly after, he started hearing voices and was diagnosed with ‘Drug Induced Psychosis’ then with schizophrenia and, was compulsorily detained under the Mental Health Act (1983). Mike resented being in hospital which he realised had a large number of other Black men, many of them had got into mental health services following the involvement of the police. Very few Black men were in therapy or were given the chance to talk about their lived experience. When racism was broached staff often changed the subject or became angry so, Mike tried to tolerate racial slurs on the ward mainly from other mental health service users.

Mike remained in hospital for about a month. Weeks after his discharge, he got into a confrontation with the police. He claimed to have been stopped by the police three times in the same day. He also reported to have been stopped the day before. Mike had recurrently seen Police Officers target Black kids for searches. He became defiant, angry and refused to comply. The situation escalated.

Mike ended up being physically restrained by three Officers. He was arrested and eventually charged with common assault. In court, no one seemed interested in his experience with the police or with schools instead, he was deemed to have a problem with authority and sentenced to 6 months in prison where he became unwell again. There, he was transferred to a Medium Secure Unit* where he was compulsory detained for several years.

(*Medium Secure Units are mental health services providing treatment for those diagnosed with mental disorders who have been arrested or committed a crime and are deemed to pause risks of harm to themselves or to others).

Please feel free to post your comments and reactions to the issues raised in the vignette.