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February 28, 2021

Black Mental Health Matters: Resources for Learning and Change

Today marks the second annual Black Mental Health Day in Ontario and another opportunity to emphasize that our system needs to do better when it comes to supporting the mental health of Black Canadians. 

Black Canadians across Canada experience harmful anti-Black racism and systemic oppression that has a significant impact on mental health outcomes. The Mental Health Commission of Canada reported that African and Caribbean Canadians were more exposed to negative social determinants of health such as unemployment, poverty, lack of access to education, and criminalization – factors that create negative health outcomes for all. 

Anti-Black racism worsens these outcomes. The Black Health Alliance reported that certain groups within the Black community have a 60 per cent increased risk of developing serious mental health issues, while according to Dr.  Kwame McKenzie, Director of Health Equity at CAMH, racism increases the rates of psychosis and depression in populations by 200 to 300 per cent. 

Despite this heightened risk, our current mental health systems often fail to provide safe and culturally appropriate mental health services to Black service users. In a study conducted by Ottawa Public Health, 57% of Black respondents felt their mental health care providers didn’t understand their needs, 56% rated their services “fair”, “poor” or “very poor” and 30% reported that  they experienced prejudice. Add to that the fact that Black individuals are overrepresented in emergency mental health calls to police that result in death and it’s clear our systems have a long way to go. 

However, some organizations and individuals are leading the path to change. 

We’ve compiled some resources highlighting amazing organizations and individuals supporting Black mental health, as well as tools for building anti-Black racism into your own peer practice. 

We are committed to amplifying the work of organizations doing anti-oppression and anti-Black racism work. If there are organizations we didn’t include on this list, please reach out to us and we will make sure to expand our resources in the next Newsletter. 

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