In 2020, the City of Toronto, in partnership with TAIBU Community Health Centre, hosted the first Black Mental Health Day. What started out as a single day of recognition has quickly swelled into a week-long annual campaign called Black Mental Health Week.
This year, Black Mental Health Week will be recognized from March 7 to 11. Throughout the week various organizations will hold virtual events and activities to address the ongoing mental health impacts of anti-Black racism on Black Canadians.
Canada is not exempt from anti-Black racism. In fact, anti-Blackness infiltrates every policy, structure, and system in Canada. Manifestations of anti-Black racism include (but are not limited to):
- Income. Almost 1 in 4 of Black Ontarians qualify as “low income,” as compared to 15% of the general racialized Ontario population. 1
- Job Opportunities. As of October 2020, the unemployment rate for Black Canadians was 5 points higher than the rate for Canadians who are not a visible minority (11.7% vs. 6.7%).2
- Social Exclusion. Black Canadians make up 9.5% of the Canadian prison population while only accounting for 2.5% of the overall population. 3 4
- Pandemic. Based on crowdsourcing data collected in August 2020, Black participants were more than twice as likely as white participants to report that they had experienced discrimination since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 5
- Healthcare and mental health supports. On average, Ontario spends less on mental health supports per person for Black populations than non-visible minorities. 6
These persistent inequities (combined with countless other instances of discrimination) have been shown to negatively affect Black psychological, physical and emotional wellbeing with symptoms that can include anxiety, depression, suicide or suicidal thoughts, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and premature mortality. 7
In conjunction with these devastating mental health outcomes, anti-Black racism can limit organizational advancement among Black workers and inhibit their ability to actively participate in their environments.
Evidently, more must be done to ensure all Black Canadians have access to culturally adaptive, accessible and equitable mental health supports.
As we reflect on Black Mental Health Week, we invite all HR professionals to take action in workplaces. Don’t let this be another statement that’s read and then filed away. Acknowledge the impacts of anti-Black racism on mental health; examine your organizations’ polices and benefits packages; improve recruitment, retention and progression of Black staff; train your staff on anti-Black racism; engage and consult with key stakeholders and communities; craft an action plan with timelines, roles and resources with identified priorities to keep your entire team accountable. 8
Though Black History Month is coming to an end, the important work on dismantling anti-Black bias in our workplaces and lives must continue.
Tools and resources
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HRPA Policy & Best Practice Templates (must use member login to access documents):
- Zero Tolerance Policy [includes info about reporting racist incidents]
- Inclusive Hiring Best Practices
Other workplace resources and related info:
- Workplace Strategies for Mental Health – Discrimination Prevention and Inclusivity
- Toolkit on Race and Mental Health at Work
- Unconscious Bias: Eliminating Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and other Discrimination On-Demand Webinar
- Minds Matter: Creating a Mental Health Supportive Workplace Webinar
- Explore eLearning and On-Demand for more information
Information on Black Mental Health Week:
- Black Mental Health Week
- Black Alliance Canada
- City of Toronto: Black Mental Health Week
- TAIBU Community Health Care Centre
- How everyday racism can impact mental, physical health
- 5 HR Professionals Share Perspectives on Black History Month
- Why Black Mental Health Day is Important
For Black Employees:
- Across Boundaries provide equitable, holistic mental health and addiction services for racialized communities in the Greater Toronto Area. They also provide a range of services within anti-Black racism frameworks.
- Black Mental Health Canada provide low-income at-risk individuals, within the Black community, access to affordable evidence-based mental health service
- The Canada Suicide Prevention Service; Mental Health Commission – Suicide Prevention helps people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
- Tropicana Community Services, a Toronto-based multiservice organization, provides all youth, newcomers, people of Black and Caribbean heritage and others in need with opportunities and alternatives that lead to success and positive life choices.
- Help Guide: Racism and Mental Health includes important tips and steps for supporting your mental health.
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