Black psychologist Beverley Drakes was highly critical of the
psychological assessments of black children in the UK. She said
that there had been too much emphasis on psychotic disorders when
assessing black children, and an under-diagnosis of depression and
anxiety-related disorders stemming from their experience as an
Too often, said Drakes, teachers and psychologists in the UK
overlooked emotional problems caused by cultural dislocation.
She said black people in the UK were constantly having to
“justify their existence”, to prove themselves, whereas in the
Caribbean nations nobody has preconceptions about your occupation,
interests and character. Drakes now practises in her place of
Drakes’ presentation drew on the groundbreaking work of black
psychologist Bernard Cord who challenged white assumptions about
black people’s mental health in the UK 30 years ago.
His research revealed that white psychologists ignored traumatic
stress and emotional disturbance when diagnosing mental health
problems in black children. These problems were caused by removal
from Caribbean culture. Such conditions were viewed in the UK as
permanent not temporary because the trauma of immigration to a
hostile culture was overlooked. Drakes referred to her own
experience as a 10-year-old attending school for the first time in
London. “I was called a monkey and told to go back home,” she said.
“Nobody said ‘good morning’ to you when you went in shops or talked
to you as they would in the Caribbean,” she said.
Drakes also said that teachers in the UK were not aware of
cultural differences. “In the Caribbean schoolchildren do not talk
back to teachers, and downcast eyes are a sign of respect. In the
UK these are misinterpreted as lack of respect,” she said.
Drakes until recently worked as a psychologist for the ministry
of education in Barbados. She used to work in the UK for Wandsworth
and Lambeth Education Authorities.