UNDERSTANDING STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION IN MENTAL HEALTH, A QUALITYRIGHTS INQUEST (2)

The institutionalization of discrimination
Victims of stigma and discrimination are often affected in ways that are not explained by the direct psychological effects of an individual’s opinionated and prejudiced attitudes and behavior. The effects of such structural or institutional discrimination may either be intentional or unintentional. Intentional institutional discrimination manifests itself in rules, policies, and administrative procedures of organizations as acted out by powerful persons in these positions who deliberately and resolutely confine rights and opportunities.


19th and 20th century Jim Crow laws in America for example largely discriminated against persons of African-American descent in socially important areas as employment, education, and public accommodation. It has been adduced that persons carrying out the policy may not have intended these effects, yet, a group of influential people at the helm of the institution’s decision making intended to diminish the opportunities of racial and ethnic groups bypassing regulations that hindered their growth opportunities.


Several examples may be adduced here in Ghana either directly or implied. Classic examples resound in areas of education, employment, and accommodation. Whereas education at the basic level and intermediate level sometimes make provision for persons with psychosocial, intellectual, and cognitive disabilities (often private sector-led), no such opportunities exist in institutions of higher learning.

Thus persons with PIC disabilities are compelled to compete with their colleagues at these levels irrespective of their disabilities. The result is the often large dropout rate of these persons, with the very few tenacious ones pulling through.


In areas of employment, the Ghanaian job sector may not necessarily institute regulations that limit the engagement or functioning of persons with PIC disabilities in their establishments. However, employee selection processes inherently eliminate these persons right from the onset. In cases where employees develop these conditions or disabilities while already working with establishments, they are instantly taken off schedules and made to take up supporting roles in the name of reducing the burden on them.

These perceived support theatrics most often end up in redundancy.
There are, however, public and private sector policies whose consequences restrict the opportunities of members of minority groups in unintended ways. These occur in instances where discrimination seemingly results without the conscious prejudicial efforts of a powerful few.


In the United States, for example, many universities and colleges use the SAT to limit admission offers to students who have earned the highest scores. This is against the backdrop that African-American students typically score lower than whites on these tests, making room for selective universities that rely on SAT for admissions to prevent a disproportionate number of African-American students from being admitted.

It seems unlikely that persons at the top of the organizations; in this case, college administrators intend to restrict the prospects available to people of color. Nevertheless, the results of university admissions policies limit the opportunities for some people because of their ethnic group status and the economic and historical forces that have forged that group’s place in society.


In Ghana, for example, this phenomenon plays out in a very interesting caboodle. Many higher institutions of learning have refused admission to some caliber of students who ordinarily may have earned the highest scores, yet are unable to gain admission to study in these institutions as a result of their inability to pass interviews.

Again, this is against the backdrop that non-privileged students who emerge from rural communities and those with some form of disabilities (dysarthria) and so are slow to speak and deliver in the English language typically score lower than their fluent urban counterparts in these interviews. Eventually, this makes room for selective institutions that rely on interviews for admissions to prevent a disproportionate number of non-privileged persons and students with disabilities from being admitted.

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