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

All resource links open up in new tabs*

HRPA Policy & Best Practice Templates (must use member login to access documents):

Other workplace resources and related info:

Information on Black Mental Health Week:

Thought pieces:

For Black Employees: