On August 12, 2020, we hosted our 2nd edition of the series called, “Let’s Talk Virtual Cafe”. The Talk is partially a focus group designed to learn more from the community about what is needed for family interventions and second, to create a safe space to start the conversations on Mental Health, Women, Masculinity, Parenting, LGBTQ2s community & more. In this segment, we featured, “Seana Broderick”, a community mental health practitioner and private practice clinician that shared her experiences of working with individuals, families and communities with mental health. The August 12 session was only a powerful discussion that highlighted key themes in Mental Health in the Black Community and in Ontario.
What are the concerns for our community members and their mental health?
-Lack of accessible & available mental health supports
-Addressing stigma and ridicule by family & community members who don’t understand mental health
-Individuals with poor mental health or are unwell, are criminalized and penalized by the police and family members
-Social media has negatively impacted mental health for youth and adult community members
-Lack of “language” and knowledge to express how we feel about ourselves, our identity, and our feelings
-Lack of availability of counsellors & psychotherapists who LOOK LIKE US, and can understand the unique experiences of Black youth & community members
What are the gaps that exist in accessing current mental health supports?
In Ontario alone, there are gaps and barriers that exist for children, youth and adults in accessing mental health supports. For members of the Black community, these gaps are created and perpetuated by anti-Black racism, systemic oppression, poverty, and other systemic issues that are difficult to address by using one method. As a result, young people and adults do not receive the mental health support they require in their lives– and in fact, become involved in “other” systems, such as the criminal justice system because their mental health needs were never addressed in a timely way. In addition, the cafe participants identified that “concerning behaviours” are not easily recognized in families, and thus individuals with mental health concerns do not access prevention and intervention services until it is too late.
Mental health is a social determinate of health! It is imperative that the needs are addressed on a systemic level to produce change. That is why we are here.
[A] gap [in] the Black community, [is] mental health is education. There is a long history within the Black community of marginalizing and shaming mental health issues. This history is often intergenerational and we are told to “be strong” (which also perpetuates stereotypical ideas of strength within the Black community). In general, Black communities are not properly educated on mental health issues which later affects the way that they react to mental health issues, understand their own mental health issues, etc.
Gaps in accessing mental health resources for the Black community:
- Fear of contacting the police due to brutality & lack of training in mental health
- Not realizing that the mental health impact of “post traumatic stress and complex trauma” associated with living in violent communities and home environments
- Financial barriers due to poverty or lack of disposable funds to spend on mental health supports
- Not able to find counselors and psychotherapists who “look like me”, understand the traumatic impact of anti-Black racism, and understand my cultural and ethnic identities
- Lack of understanding of specific “emotional and physical” triggers which can exacerbate mental health symptoms, and concerns.
- Lack of understanding of how mental health supports are provided
- Fear of using Employee based counselling supports due to a need for privacy
How do we support mental wellness in our own lives?
Our participants were clear, mental wellness is not about using one strategy that helps us to address our mental health. Our mental health is as important as our physical health, and we need to ensure that we are seeking the supports to maintain our wellness, and address concerns and symptoms. Supporting our mental health is difficult, given the gaps we identified but not supporting our mental health can lead to serious problems such as extended periods of hospitalization, police involvement, and suicide. The participants in the virtual cafe understood and believed that our mental health can be impacted by such difficulties such as:
- Postpartum depression
- Baby loss, miscarriages and death
- Physical illness
- Divorce & separation
- A global pandemic
- Witnessing violence
- Traumatic grief
- Domestic & interpersonal abuse
- Disaster, i.e. earthquakes, violent event
- Substance use
- Difficulties at work, anti-Black racism
- Childhood disorders, i.e. autism, attention-deficit disorder
- Personality disorders
- Paranoia and schizophrenia
Any surprises? Given that the “global pandemic” has impacted everyone’s lives, it is imperative that we focus on developing ways to create “safety” in our lives, manage symptoms of distress, such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, and we encourage you to use our platform as the first step to seeking support.
“Mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical are characteristics of well-being. Activities to care for yourself in these areas are: exercising, mediation/relaxation, hair, skin, and nail care, and expressing emotion through creativity (art, dance, and writing)”
Let us help
If you are seeking mental health services, contact us today. We will provide support, counselling services, advocacy, and case management through Kujenga Wellness Project and our partners:
If you are a private social worker, counselor or psychotherapist, an Employee Assistance Provider, and/or able to provide facilitation of groups, webinars or workshops, or individual sessions and would like to join our specialized rooster of support agents, complete our interest form:
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