Black Mental Health Week is a yearly event focused on amplifying Black voices and raising awareness about the historical and ongoing impact that systemic, anti-Black racism has on the mental health and wellness of Black communities. This year’s partners, TAIBU Community Health Centre, Tropicana Community Services and Strides Toronto are hosting Black Mental Health Week events that will take place on March 6 – March 12, 2023, under the theme, “Be You, Be Well”.
Black Mental Health Week provides the child and youth mental health (CYMH) sector with the opportunity to reflect on its ongoing work combatting anti-Black racism while recognizing that Black children, youth, and families continue to face systemic barriers to accessing safe and culturally appropriate mental health services. In the CYMH sector, Pathways to Care, a 5-year research project aimed at improving access to mental health care for Black children and youth, notes that Black youth access mental health care through the justice system and hospital emergency rooms at much higher rates than other populations. While this is representative of many systemic failures it notably highlights the inaccessibility of mental health care for Black children and youth, until moments of crisis. There is much work to be done to create more accessible pathways for Black youth to access care that is safe and responsive to their needs.
This February, CMHO and The New Mentality’s (TNM) Youth Action Committee released a follow up reflection document to its fourth policy paper Adjusting the Spotlight: Re-centering Neglected BIPOC Youth Voices Surrounding Mental Health. The policy paper focused on the lived experiences of Black, Indigenous and racialized youth accessing mental health services in Ontario and outlined six recommendations for the sector to address the current disparities in mental health care for Black, Indigenous and racialized youth. The reflection document builds upon this work by serving as a guide for organizations and individuals to look back on their anti-racism work.
At CMHO, we have made the commitment to provide updates on our journey addressing racial equity internally and within the sector over time. Advancing health equity, with a focus on racial equity remains an organizational priority for CMHO, and we are dedicated to continuing to work in partnership with members, key stakeholders, youth, and families towards the creation of a more equitable, accessible and safe child and youth mental health sector.
It is integral that the child and youth mental health sector emphasize the ongoing work of Black-led organizations and organizations/programming developed in conjunction with Black organizers and community members. These organizations are leading providers in programming and services that are culturally responsive to the needs of the Black diaspora in Ontario. We would like to highlight some of these organizations below.
Organizations Serving Black Communities:
TAIBU Community Health Centre provides primary care, health promotion and other health-related programming in a culturally affirming environment to Black families in the Greater Toronto Area and residents in Scarborough’s Malvern neighbourhood.
With a predominant focus on the Caribbean, Black and African communities of Toronto, Tropicana Community Services offers support programs that includes counselling, youth leadership programs, aggression management, and youth drop-in activities.
Black Health Alliance (BHA) is a community-led organization focused on improving the overall health and well-being of Black communities across Canada. BHA’s work is driven by key issues that impact the Black community including anti-Black racism to deliver research that is informed by Black experiences and relevant to community needs.
Black Youth Helpline was developed in response to the need for a Black youth specific service promoting access to culturally relevant support for Black children, youth and families. Now Black Youth Helpline is a Canada-wide multicultural service focused on education, health and community development.
Pathways to Care is a project borne out of a series of community consultations with Black youth, families and community members across Ontario where lack of mental health supports for Black youth was raised as a key issue. Pathways to Care is a 5-year project aimed at addressing this concern by removing barriers and improving access to mental health and addictions services for Black children and youth.
Image Credit: blackmentalhealthweek.ca