CMHA Ottawa joins Canadians across the country to honour the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present, for Black History Month in February.
While Black History Month is a time to learn about the many important contributions of African, Caribbean, and Black Canadians to the growth and development of Canada, it’s important to note that members of these communities face numerous/ongoing challenges. These include racism, sexism, poor access to education, low employment rates, inadequate housing, and poverty, all of which are barriers to accessing mental health and addictions support.
According to the Black Health Alliance website:
- Black Ontarians of Caribbean descent experience two times the delay in accessing evidence-based services than individuals of white European descent
- Black Ontarians experience higher rates of restraint and confinement while under the care of the mental health and addictions system
- People of Caribbean, East and West African origin in Ontario are at a 60 per cent increased risk of psychosis
Currently, there is limited research on how stigma affects mental health within the Black community and affects access to services, especially when living with experiences of racism, sexism, and ageism. The lack of race-based data, as well as the absence of culturally appropriate services and resources that specifically target Black communities within Canada, result in many people struggling alone and in silence.
At CMHA Ottawa: In the spring of 2020, a group of Black and racialized staff and allies formed the agency's first-ever anti-racist task force. The group, composed of direct-service staff and management, began by hosting a popular series of staff-only, open-forum virtual events it called "Let's get uncomfortable together." In this setting, staff were given the opportunity to share their firsthand experiences with anti-Black racism, specifically in the local community and mental health and addictions services sector (in a safe, judgment-free zone). The task force also shared resources and educational tools with their colleagues that would provide them a deeper understanding of the Black experience in Canada, with an intention of challenging misconceptions, eliminating blind-spots, and stamping out problematic viewpoints -- planting the seeds for an anti-racist, anti-oppressive workplace culture. But workplace culture is just one side of the coin: with momentum in its favour, the task force soon merged with members of the agency's pre-existing diversity committee with a goal for 2021 of introducing anti-oppression practices to CMHA Ottawa; compiling recommendations to ensure equitable hiring practices, recruitment of BIPOC candidates and students, culturally specific client intake and services, and more. The work has only begun.
Interested in learning more for #BlackHistoryMonth? Check out these provincial organizations: http://bit.ly/3cm16Ts