As the federal government pushes for more mental health research in minority communities, mental health experts contend that without ethical guidance researchers could do more harm than good, said Celia Fisher, Ph.D., the director of Fordham’s Center for Ethics Education and chair of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Ethics Code Revision Task Force. “In light of historical abuses in research of minority communities, we want to make sure this bold initiative is done right,” said Fisher, a professor of psychology.
“One of the greatest risks of this federally-funded research agenda is the possibility that investigators’ findings will perpetuate racist policies in housing, employment and education.” More than 40 mental health experts from around the country met at Fordham last week to discuss cultural biases, confidentiality issues, institutional racism and other ethical concerns. Fisher and her peers are compiling a list of recommendations for government and private agencies to guide research projects and avoid further stigmatization of minority communities. During the two-day conference, participants discussed several issues, including the importance of consulting with the community to be studied to educate the researcher and inform the subjects, and determining whether there is a history of over-diagnosing mental disorders based on culturally-biased testing and ignorance.