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Mayor Tory proclaims Black Mental Health Week in Toronto

Parts of the GTA's Black population are undergoing a 60 per cent increase in serious mental health problems like psychosis.


Mayor John Tory officially proclaims March 7 to 11 as Black Mental Health Week in Toronto. 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 social, economic and political marginalization of the more than 400,000 people of African descent who call Toronto home has been heightened over the last two years as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to compound already existing inequities in our society.

Experiencing systemic discrimination and microaggressions are social stressors that 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 has again partnered with TAIBU Community Health Centre – a non-for-profit, community-led organization that serves Black community across the Greater Toronto Area – and engaged partners at Tropicana Community Services and Strides Toronto to lead the initiative and animate virtual spaces across Toronto with various community partners. In partnership with the City’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, TAIBU, Tropicana and Strides Toronto will develop a community-facing report that will highlight key recommendations based on the findings from the week’s community activities.

Key events include:
•       Panel discussion to launch Black Mental Health Week on Monday, March 7 at 1 p.m. by TAIBU, Tropicana and Strides focused on the ways Black communities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its intersection with the social determinants of health. The panel will feature Racquel Hamlet, Manager Community Crisis Response Program at TAIBU; Raymund Guiste, Executive Director at Tropicana; Janet McCrimmon, CEO at Strides; and Dr. Akawtu Khenti, Chair, Black Scientists’ Taskforce on Vaccine Equity. These discussions will aim to provide direction on a way forward centering radical and collective healing of Black communities.
•       Understanding Black Mental Health on March 7, from 7 to 8 p.m., Dr. Akwatu Khenti and Dr. Justine Joseph from The Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity.
•       They Passed This Way on March 7, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., hosted by Sheffield Park Black History and Cultural Museum, a presentation to share the journey of Freedom Seekers and Black Loyalists who established settlements throughout Canada.
•       Hear My Voice, Not My Behaviour on March 9, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. hosted by Tropicana to discuss how children are experiencing racism, how their voices are being silenced, and how we can contribute to their healing, empowerment and well-being.

Details (including registration) about these and other events can be found at www.BlackMentalHealthWeek.ca.

In 2020, the City launched the first-ever Black Mental Health Day in partnership with TAIBU. Last year the day was expanded to a week to provide greater opportunity to facilitate and cultivate increased awareness of the impacts of anti-Black racism on Black communities, families and individuals.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has invested $2.9 million in mental health supports for Torontonians. In recognition of the disproportionate impact that the pandemic has on Black communities, and in keeping with its commitment to confront anti-Black racism, the City allocated $293,000 to six Black-mandated agencies through its TO Supports: COVID-19 Equity Action Plan, and $670,000 to eleven Black-mandated agencies through its Mental Health Support Strategy, 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 2-1-1 or visiting www.211toronto.ca. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For those looking for further support, there is a mental health section on the City’s website that is full of helpful advice and resources: www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-protect-yourself-others/covid-19-mental-health-resources/.

Quotes:

“Black Mental Health is one way in which we are actively raising awareness about the impacts anti-Black racism has on someone’s mental health. We have seen those challenges further exacerbated during the pandemic which make the call to take action even more important. I encourage residents to take advantage of the events this week and to learn more about the support and services that are available. I want to thank all of our partners for making this week possible and for working to address the ongoing needs of Toronto’s Black community.”
– Mayor John Tory

“Although they face the accumulated trauma of day-to-day racism and microaggressions, Black people often believe that talking about the impact of racism on their mental health is shameful or even taboo. Black Mental Health Week will not only raise awareness of the importance of seeking help, but it will also encourage Black Torontonians to take action. No matter who you are, there is no shame is talking about and getting help if you are struggling with your mental health.”
– Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair of the Economic and Community Development Committee and Chair of the Confronting Anti-Black Racism Advisory Committee

“Anti-Black racism has significant impact of the mental health and wellbeing on the diverse members of the Black community. It is very important that we as community members talk amongst each other about the challenges we face without stigma, so we can begin to access and receive the right service at the right time. Secondly, it is equally important to engage institutions and mental health service agencies to bring to their attention the particular challenges Black communities are facing perpetuated by several social determinants of health and the need for a culturally responsive and safe service delivery. Thirdly, government agencies and decision makers need to be aware that systemic changes such as policy change, redirection of resources and a long-term strategy is required if we need to bring about improvement in the mental health and well-being of Black communities. This is what we aim to achieve during Black Mental Health Week 2022. I want to take this opportunity to thank the City of Toronto for its continued leadership and engagement to add to the Black community’s voice.”
– Liben Gebremikael, Executive Director, TAIBU Community Health Services

“Food security is one of the most basic needs for any person, family and community. It’s necessary to thrive physically, emotionally and mentally. At Tropicana Community Services, we are taking aim at the disproportionate impact that poverty and food insecurity has in the Black community. As part of our holistic approach to providing mental health support we are forging the necessary partnerships to get this job done. Together, we believe we can make a real difference.”
– S. Raymund Guiste, LL.M, Executive Director, Tropicana Community Services

“We acknowledge the tremendous harms that have occurred in the Black community due to systemic racism and micro-aggressions and are committed to addressing this in our work every day. As Lead Agency for infant, child and youth mental health in Toronto, we are actively working with partners to address anti-Black racism in our sector and ensure that Black young people and families across Toronto have access to culturally responsive mental health services that meet their needs. Many thanks to the partners and to the members of the sector’s Anti-Black Racism Task Force contributed to develop sessions as part of Black Mental Health Week.”
– Janet McCrimmon, Chief Executive Officer, Strides Toronto

SOURCE City of Toronto

photo from www.thestar.com

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