March 6, 2023 | Vision Newspaper |
Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie (Scarborough-Rouge Park) officially proclaims Black Mental Health Week in Toronto starting today through to Sunday, March 12. Throughout the week, various events planned by community groups and agencies will focus on the impact that anti-Black racism has on mental health. The week is also a call to action for more support and access to culturally-responsive mental health services and programs for Black residents.
The impacts of anti-Black racism and required repair from the harms of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to heighten the social, economic and political marginalization of the more than 400,000 people of African descent who call Toronto home. Black Mental Health Week is an opportunity to strengthen our commitment to confronting the effects of anti-Black racism as a trigger for mental illness and recognize it as a year-round issue.
Experiencing systemic discrimination and microaggressions increase the risk of negative physical and mental health including anxiety, depression, suicide or suicidal thoughts, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, high blood pressure and premature mortality.
A week dedicated to Black mental health presents an opportunity to acknowledge that struggles with mental health are a result of the legacy of anti-Black racism and the daily lived experience for many Black residents and Torontonians of African descent. This is an important step to rally people to take collective action by:
• Seeking help for mental health care or encouraging someone else to do so
• Supporting organizations or institutions to adopt a plan for increasing accessibility to culturally-responsive mental health supports
• Inspiring community-led activations that advance existing mental health resources within the community and acknowledge the need for more
• Sharing personal stories so others know that they are not alone
The City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit (CABR) has again partnered with TAIBU Community Health Centre – a non-for-profit, community-led organization that serves the Black community across the Greater Toronto Area – and engaged partners at Tropicana Community Services and Strides Toronto to lead the initiative and animate spaces in person and virtually across Toronto with various community partners.
Key Black Mental Health Week events include:
• Monday, March 6 – Panel discussion to launch Black Mental Health Week today, 2 p.m., by TAIBU Community Health Centre, Tropicana Community Services and Strides Toronto focused on this year’s theme “Be You, Be Well”. The discussion will explore what centering wellness means and looks like. The panel will feature Racquel Hamlet, Manager of Wellness and Community Crisis Response Team, TAIBU; Raymond Guiste, Executive Director, Tropicana Community Services; Janet McCrimmon, President and CEO, Strides Toronto; Dr. Akwatu Khenti, Director of the City’s Community Resources Section; and Dania Niles, Community Engagement Manager, Pride Toronto.
• Tuesday, March 7 – “Hear My Voice, Not My Behaviour”, from 3 to 4 p.m., hosted by Tropicana to discuss how children are experiencing racism, how their voices are being silenced, and how Torontonians can contribute to their healing, empowerment and well-being.
• Thursday, March 9 – Panel discussion on the Toronto Community Crisis Service program, from 2 to 4 p.m. The discussion will include an update on the new Toronto Community Crisis Service — a new alternate approach to responding to someone in crisis that focuses on health, prevention, and well-being. The panel will feature Mohamed Shuriye, Manager, the City’s Policing Reform Unit, and Raquel Hamlet, Manager, Wellness and Community Crises Response Team, TAIBU.
• Sunday, March 12 – Closing ceremony, in-person celebration at the City of Toronto Archives, 255 Spadina Rd, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will include opening remarks from Liben Gebremikael, Chief Executive Officer, TAIBU; remarks from Deputy Mayor McKelvie; keynote message from Randell Adjei, Ontario’s first Poet Laureate; and special performances.
Details about these and other events, including registration information, are available on the Black Mental Health Week webpage: https://blackmentalhealthweek.
In 2020, the City launched the first Black Mental Health Day, in partnership with TAIBU. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has invested more than $3.8 million in mental health supports for Torontonians through its TO Supports Program and its Mental Health Support Strategy. Of this funding, the City allocated more than $1.2 million to 13 Black-mandated agencies to provide culturally-responsive and appropriate mental health supports to Black Torontonians.
Through the Mental Health Support Strategy, residents from all backgrounds can access free mental health support from the safety of their own homes through text, online or by phone by simply calling 211 or visiting https://211central.ca/. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Black Mental Health Week is an important opportunity to strengthen our commitment to confronting the impact that anti-Black racism has on mental health, and recognizing it as a year-round issue. It is a call to action to recognize and respond to the gaps across sectors in Toronto with culturally-appropriate supports that address the mental health needs of Toronto’s Black communities.”
– Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie (Scarborough-Rouge Park)
“TAIBU continues to be encouraged by the engagement of our partners and wider community in raising the awareness of the impact of anti-Black racism on the mental health and well-being of Black communities. This year it is about us, for us, with us. ‘Be You & Be Well’. Anti-Black racism, coupled with the pandemic, has hit Black communities hard. During Black mental health week, let us look after ourselves, our families, our friends, our neighborhoods and our communities. Let us! TAIBU – be in good health!”
– Liben Gebremikael, Chief Executive Officer, TAIBU Community Health Services
“During Black Mental Health Week we are shining a light on and raising awareness of the unique mental health needs of Canadians of African descent, as well as the well-documented, disparate mental health care outcomes our community experiences. Afriphobia and anti-Black racism are two major drivers of those outcomes that we must confront. There are three simple things everyone can do to make a difference. One — educate yourself. Two — advocate for someone else. Three — get involved with an initiative or agency that is focused on improving people’s lives in this area.”
– Raymond Guiste, Executive Director, Tropicana Community Services
“During Black Mental Health Week, we raise awareness of the many harms that have occurred in Black communities due to systemic racism, its detrimental impact on mental health and strategies to support well-being. As a service provider and in Strides Toronto’s capacity as Toronto’s lead agency for infant, child, and youth mental health, we are actively collaborating with partners to address anti-Black racism in our sector, to ensure that Black young people and families have access to mental health services that are culturally responsive and effective. Thank you to the partners and members of the sector’s Anti-Black Racism Task Force, who contributed to developing sessions for Black Mental Health Week.”
– Janet McCrimmon, President and CEO, Strides Toronto
Toronto is home to more than three million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture, and innovation, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses. For more information visit www.toronto.ca or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CityofToronto, on Instagram at www.instagram.com/cityofto or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cityofto.
SOURCE City of Toronto