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COVID-19 and Racialized Communities: Impacts on Mental Health

March 30, 2022 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm EDT

COVID-19 has magnified stressors like housing and food insecurity, poverty, and job loss. As inequities have gotten worse, the need to understand how health systems and communities might prepare for the pandemic’s long-term mental health impacts have become clear.

New research, developed through our partnership with Wellesley Institute, has looked at the impacts of COVID-19 on the mental health and well-being of racialized working-age adults living in the Greater Toronto Area. The study focused on the experiences of people from these communities, including representatives from community organizations.

Our virtual panel discussion will be the first public presentation of this research, which sought to foreground community perspectives in addressing the COVID-19-related inequities and challenges impacting mental health.

This live event will be in English and provide ASL (American Sign Language) interpretation, live French translation, and simultaneous closed captioning in English and French.

Host and moderator:

  • Dr. Kwame McKenzie, CEO, Wellesley Institute


  • Sarah Sanford, Wellesley Institute: Since earning her PhD from the University of Toronto, which looked at pandemic preparedness in global health policy through the lens of critical social theory, Sarah’s work in research and policy development has included access to prescription medication, communication across health systems, and health and safety regulation in precarious work. She is particularly interested in using qualitative approaches to understand how social and economic conditions produce health inequities. Her recent work has focused on supportive housing, mental health, and experiences of COVID-19.


  • Mauriene Tolentino, Mental Health Commission of Canada: Mauriene’s work as a policy and research analyst (and community organizer in Tkaronto/Toronto) is rooted in using anti-racist and decolonial approaches for understanding the role of policies and systems in addressing health inequities. Her master’s degree from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (University of Toronto) specialized in both women and gender studies and in public health policy. Currently, they are focusing on the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on priority populations, including racialized and 2SLGBTQ+ communities. Outside the MHCC, Mauriene conducts research for a participatory action project with Filipina care workers (GABRIELA Ontario and York University), is an adviser to the Filipino Youth Fellowship, and is a board member of The 519.


  • Aseefa Sarang: Aseefa is the executive director of Across Boundaries, an ethnoracial mental health centre that, for the past 28 years, has been a leader in providing mental health and addiction services to Toronto’s racialized and Black communities. These services are centred in using equitable and holistic approaches and anti-racist, anti-oppression, and resisting anti-Black racism frameworks to support people who face multiple barriers to care. Her interests are in programming for adults, youth, and families and the intersection of these lives with the criminal justice system, homelessness, immigration, and other social determinants of health. Aseefa is committed to systemic change through advocacy, allyship, and “accompliceship.” She has served on various boards and committees at local, provincial, and national levels, including with the City of Toronto, Connex Ontario, the MHCC, and Ontario Health’s Health System Advisory Council, to name a few.


  • Liben Gebremikael: For the past 13 years, Liben has been theTAIBU Community Health Centre’s first executive director. In that time, TAIBU has developed strong community roots and become a recognizable agency committed to addressing the impact of anti-Black racism on the health and well-being of Black communities. He also has more than 30 years of experience in primary health care, social services, mental health, and community capacity building and development. Liben holds an MA in migration, mental health, and social care from the University of Kent (U.K.) and a master’s certificate in health-care management from the Schulich school of business. He is an adjunct professor at Ontario Tech University, an assistant professor at Humber College, and a sessional instructor for the Anti-Black Racism and the Health of Black Canadians course at the University of Toronto Scarborough.


  • Mithi Esguerra: Mithi is the program coordinator for Migrants Resource Centre Canada, a non-profit organization that engages in community-based research and advocacy while providing services, community education, and training to migrant workers. She has also served as a board member for the Community Alliance for Social Justice, a coalition of Filipino community groups advocating on issues such as youth and community safety, migrant caregiver rights, and the recognition of credentials for internationally trained professionals. Mithi has decades-long experience in organizing and advocacy work for migrant-worker communities. From her involvement in grassroots organizing groups to her professional life as a community worker, her strengths and interests lie at the intersection of capacity building, immigration, labour, community, and civic engagement.


Register here!


March 30, 2022
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm EDT
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