Racism, psychological injury, and compensatory damages

Hosp Community Psychiatry. 1986 Jan;37(1):71-5. doi: 10.1176/ps.37.1.71.


Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have paid only modest attention to the idea that discriminatory conduct causes emotional suffering for those who are the object of it. However, courts have held that if such racist conduct is willful and outrageous and the ensuing suffering is severe, the plaintiff has a reasonable claim to compensatory damages. The authors trace these developments in the legal arena in both tort actions and complaints under civil rights statutes. They also point out how psychiatrists could be more influential in sharpening considerations about the idea that racism causes psychological injury.

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American
  • Civil Rights / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Physician's Role
  • Prejudice*
  • Psychiatry
  • Race Relations / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Shame
  • United States
  • Wit and Humor as Topic