Dr Aggrey Burke: Psychiatrist, Academic, Specialist in Mental Health (born 1943)
Aggrey Burke dedicated his career to understanding and improving the experiences and extreme systemic inequalities of mental health services for people of colour.
Born in Clarendon, Jamaica to parents who campaigned for social justice, he ultimately studied in Ethiopia, the Caribbean and Britain.
Black people are 4 times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than white people, ten times more likely to be placed on community treatment orders, seven times more likely to be placed in secure treatment units and more likely to receive a higher dose of anti- psychotic medication rather than being offered talking therapies, and more likely to be classed as aggressive or dangerous rather than in need of support. These types of systemic inequalities also effect other minoritised communities and people of colour. Aggrey Burke wanted to change this.
When still in Jamaica, Burke wrote the earliest report on Schizophrenia in the Caribbean. In 1976, Burke published works on attempted suicidein immigrant Irish, West Indian and Asian people in Birmingham, UK. Along with Joe Collier, Burke also exposed discrimination in London Medical Schools writing a paper “Racial and Sexual Discrimination in the Selection of Students for London Medical Schools”.
When the New Cross Massacre happened in 1981, he set up a support group for families who were affected, to provide counselling and support. It was the first group of its kind.
Raising these issues came at a high price and he was never promoted, despite his excellent reputation. However, his research led to an enquiry into St Georges Medical School by the Commission for Race Equality, and recommendations were made to improve their practice and to offer places to previously unsuccessful applicants declined on the grounds of race discrimination.
Summarised from 100 Great Black Britons – Patrick Vernon and Angelina Osborne