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Shining A Light On Mental Health In Black Communities

Quick Stats

  • 38.3% of Black Canadian residents with poor or fair self-reported mental health used mental health services compared with 50.8% White Canadian residents (between 2001 and 2014).
  • Based on a 2018 survey of 328 Black Canadian residents
    • 60% said they would be more willing to use mental health services if the mental health professional were Black
    • 35.4% were experiencing significant psychological distress, 34.2% of whom never sought mental health services
    • 95.1% felt that the underutilization of mental health services by Black Canadian residents was an issue that needed to be addressed

COVID-19

  • According to a 2020 Statistics Canada survey, for most measures of 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 White participants.
  • 27.9% of Black visible-minority respondents, compared to 22.9% of White respondents, reported fair/poor self-rated mental health.
  • 32% of Black visible-minority respondents, compared to 24.2% of White respondents, reported symptoms consistent with moderate/severe generalized anxiety disorder in the two weeks prior to completing the survey.
  • 37.5% of Black visible-minority respondents, compared to 22.1% of White respondents, reported COVID-19-related financial insecurity.

Considerations for promoting mental health in Black communities

Whether you’re a Black person, a health-care professional, or an organization focused on building awareness, you can take steps to de-stigmatize help seeking and build healthier Black communities:

  • Spread the message that seeking support is not just for those with a mental illness — it’s an important part of maintaining overall good health.
  • Be sure to include Black representation in awareness campaigns to help dispel the myth that mental health problems do not exist in Black communities.
  • Include multiple Black representatives in the development of mental health programs and initiatives to advocate for the diverse needs of their communities. Studies have shown that integrating culturally responsive care in such programs improves mental health service use among Black people in Canada.
  • In care settings, ensure that all professionals receive cultural competency training to better understand the factors that may contribute to poor mental health in Black communities, including the unique challenges faced by immigrants and refugees.

If you are hestitant to ask for help, remember …

  • Seeking support when you need it shows strength, not weakness.
  • Like physical health care, strict confidentiality rules are in place between mental health professionals and their clients.
  • Culturally specific resources exist. Your local community health centre may be able to help you find the program or counsellor that most closely matches your background or personal preference.
  • Free mental health support is available. In addition to the resources, you can ask your local community health centre about no-cost programs in your area.

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