CMHA Toronto joins Canadians across the country to honour the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present, for Black History Month in February.
While Black History Month is a time to learn about the many important contributions of African, Caribbean, and Black Canadians to the settlement, growth and development of Canada, it’s important to note that members of these communities face ongoing challenges given their subjection to generational trauma through enslavement, oppression, colonialism, and segregation, much of which extends to the experience of mental health care inequity today. These experiences include racism, sexism, poor access to education, low employment rates, inadequate housing, and poverty, all of which are barriers to accessing mental health and addictions support.
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada:
- Black persons in Canada are more likely to experience challenges in finding family physicians, who often serve as an important gateway to mental health care
- Among Black-Caribbean populations, wait times for mental health care averaged 16 months, more than twice of the wait for participants of white European descent (which averaged seven months)
- Despite the higher prevalence of mental illness found in low-income areas (where Black populations disproportionally reside), these communities often have fewer mental health programs and services.
In a StatsCan 2020 survey on mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, participants from the Black visible-minority group reported poorer self-rated mental health and greater financial insecurity compared with those of white European descent.
These experiences, as well as the absence of culturally appropriate services and resources that specifically target Black communities within Canada, result in many people struggling alone and in silence.