February is Black History Month. It's a chance to celebrate and acknowledge the transformative work that Black Canadians and their communities are doing.
It’s also a time to note that there are many ongoing challenges that the black community is facing such as racism, sexism, poor access to education, poverty and inadequate housing. These are all barriers to accessing mental health support. Research shows members of the adult Black community are 20% more likely to experience mental health conditions, yet they have lower rates of accessing mental health services, which could result in the development of more serious conditions.
According to the Black Health Alliance website:
Black Ontarians of Caribbean descent experience 2 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
These high-risk environment populations can be detrimental for one’s health and increase the chance of developing serious mental health conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorder and depression.
Experiencing anti-black racism, in its many forms, can lead to experiencing PTSD symptoms. Racism is experienced in many ways, and can be traumatizing, especially if experienced repeatedly.
Racism can be in many forms, such as microaggressions; subtle, indirect actions, words, or thoughts that are discriminatory. For example, actions such as a white woman clutching her purse when she walks by a black man, or a store owner watching a black person closely in fear, implying the chance of a robbery. Many people are moving away from the term microaggression, as the person experiencing this type of racism experiences real trauma. “Micro” implies it is small, which it isn’t.
Overt forms of racism such as blatant hate crimes, physical assault, and verbal assault, are deeply traumatizing as well. Systemic racism such as government housing policies, school-to-prison pipelines, discrepancies in medical access and numerous other issues, are experienced by the black community leading to added mental health worries and stress.
While celebrating the enormous contributions that Black people have made, and continue to make, in all sectors of society, we also want to draw attention to the mental health disparity and the lack of access to support due to systemic barriers.
Savyn is committed to bringing equitable and inclusive solutions to all people in need by removing barriers to accessing mental health care. The future is now, together, we can break down the barriers and build an equal society for everyone.
To learn more about the Black History Month and how to celebrate it, please visit https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/black-history-month.html.