• Councillor Mark Grimes

Mayor Tory proclaims Black Mental Health Week in Toronto

Mayor John Tory officially proclaims March 7 to 11 as Black Mental Health Week in Toronto. Throughout the week, various events planned by community groups and agencies will focus on the impact that anti-Black racism has on mental health. The week is also a call to action for more support and access to culturally-responsive mental health services and programs for Black residents.

The social, economic and political marginalization of the more than 400,000 people of African descent who call Toronto home has been heightened over the last two years as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to compound already existing inequities in our society.

Experiencing systemic discrimination and microaggressions are social stressors that increase the risk of negative physical and mental health including anxiety, depression, suicide or suicidal thoughts, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, high blood pressure and premature mortality.

A week dedicated to Black mental health presents an opportunity to acknowledge that struggles with mental health are a result of the legacy of anti-Black racism and the daily lived experience for many Black residents and Torontonians of African Descent. This is an important step to rally people to take collective action by:

  • Seeking help for mental health care or encouraging someone else to do so

  • Supporting organizations or institutions to adopt a plan for increasing accessibility to culturally-responsive mental health supports

  • Inspiring community-led activations that advance existing mental health resources within the community and acknowledge the need for more

  • Sharing personal stories so others know that they are not alone.

The City of Toronto has again partnered with TAIBU Community Health Centre – a non-for-profit, community-led organization that serves Black community across the Greater Toronto Area – and engaged partners at Tropicana Community Services and Strides Toronto to lead the initiative and animate virtual spaces across Toronto with various community partners. In partnership with the City’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, TAIBU, Tropicana and Strides Toronto will develop a community-facing report that will highlight key recommendations based on the findings from the week’s community activities.

Key events include:

  • Panel discussion to launch Black Mental Health Week on Monday, March 7 at 1 p.m. by TAIBU, Tropicana and Strides focused on the ways Black communities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its intersection with the social determinants of health. The panel will feature Racquel Hamlet, Manager Community Crisis Response Program at TAIBU; Raymund Guiste, Executive Director at Tropicana; Janet McCrimmon, CEO at Strides; and Dr. Akawtu Khenti, Chair, Black Scientists’ Taskforce on Vaccine Equity. These discussions will aim to provide direction on a way forward centering radical and collective healing of Black communities.

  • Understanding Black Mental Health on March 7, from 7 to 8 p.m., Dr. Akwatu Khenti and Dr. Justine Joseph from The Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity.

  • They Passed This Way on March 7, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., hosted by Sheffield Park Black History and Cultural Museum, a presentation to share the journey of Freedom Seekers and Black Loyalists who established settlements throughout Canada.

  • Hear My Voice, Not My Behaviour on March 9, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. hosted by Tropicana to discuss how children are experiencing racism, how their voices are being silenced, and how we can contribute to their healing, empowerment and well-being.

Details (including registration) about these and other events can be found at BlackMentalHealthWeek.ca.

In 2020, the City launched the first-ever Black Mental Health Day in partnership with TAIBU. Last year the day was expanded to a week to provide greater opportunity to facilitate and cultivate increased awareness of the impacts of anti-Black racism on Black communities, families and individuals.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has invested $2.9 million in mental health supports for Torontonians. In recognition of the disproportionate impact that the pandemic has on Black communities, and in keeping with its commitment to confront anti-Black racism, the City allocated $293,000 to six Black-mandated agencies through its TO Supports: COVID-19 Equity Action Plan, and $670,000 to eleven Black-mandated agencies through its Mental Health Support Strategy, to provide culturally-responsive and appropriate mental health supports to Black Torontonians.

Through the Mental Health Support Strategy, residents from all backgrounds can access free mental health support from the safety of their own homes through text, online or by phone by simply calling 2-1-1 or visiting 211toronto.ca. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For those looking for further support, there is a mental health section on the City’s website that is full of helpful advice and resources.