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Why Black Mental Wellness Deserves More Attention

A Black man dealing with stress and anxiety

Both in and outside of the Black community, Black mental health isn’t being addressed enough. Inequality, anti-Black racism, and racially motivated violence persist, and these factors adversely affect mental wellness in the Black community, more than people realize.

Young Black people have specific concerns, with many worrying about the continued killing of unarmed Black men across North America. Many youths don’t even feel safe in their homes anymore—just ask the family of Clive Mensah, a mentally ill young man who was killed in his home despite obeying police orders.

A greater understanding of issues that affect Black mental wellness is needed to truly see progress. It’s time to have a tough conversation about this.

Black People Deal With Unique Stressors

Anti-Black racism, violence, poverty, and other factors contribute to the degradation of the mental and physical well being of Black people. Conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity develop because of the effect of each aforementioned factor on health. These conditions in turn cause issues at home and work.

The horror of police violence, such as the case of George Floyd, among so many others, is understandably traumatic. Add to that the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the Black community, and it’s not surprising people are struggling with mental health. Half of Canadians surveyed have seen their mental health worsen due to the pandemic, with many Black Canadians among them.

What Impact Does Anti-Black Racism Have On Black Mental Wellness?

A Black woman trying to handle stress

Dealing with the mental and physical effects of anti-Black racism can cause them to foster significantly debilitating habits. It triggers unhealthy behaviours to handle stress like smoking. It also makes people in the Black community more prone to high blood pressure and diseases.

Black Canadians are two times likelier to be treated with disrespect than their white counterparts, according to studies, which shows the level of stress they have to deal with, just because of their skin colour.

Furthermore, a 2019 study found that African Americans who’ve experienced anti-Black racism have seen increased inflammation, exposing them to a greater risk of heart and kidney disease. It also damages sleep routines and causes physiological dysfunction during midlife. Other studies have proven that Black mental health is twice as likely to be affected as physical health due to racism.

The Health Iniquities Are Startling

Denying that there aren’t inequities between the healthcare Blacks receive compared to other communities would be foolish.

Social issues have fostered increased addiction and Black mental wellness issues. According to studies, Black Ontarians have considerably more aversive pathways to emergency room care, ambulance care or police aid compared to their white counterparts. They’ve also had more experiences of being restrained and confinement when receiving care under the local mental health and addictions system.

Young Black people, ages 18-25, have also experienced higher levels of mental health problems while seeing lower availability for mental health services. Add the fact that many in the Black community are exposed to violence and drugs in neighbourhoods as well as the generational stigma associated with mental health, and you see just why Black mental health matters. These factors can have traumatic effects on the psyche of black people, worse if family or people close to them are involved, increasing mental fragility.

It would help to have more Black people in powerful positions that address Black mental health issues. Having professional and certified therapists, psychologists and health professionals from the same culture and community, some of whom have dealt with similar struggles, would greatly benefit those struggling with Black mental wellness. And, it would help that they had inexpensive access to these professionals where possible.

How Can Organizations Approach This?

For organizations and health professionals to better adapt to the needs of all patients, change and greater transparency are needed in the models they use. Holistic and culturally relevant approaches like affirming cultural importance are needed to support Black employees and people in general with mental health concerns. Entities such as Caribbean African Canadian Social Services and Across Boundaries are using these approaches to attack the problem.

Additionally, organizations such as the Black Mental Health Alliance provide increased education about Black mental wellness and the solutions necessary to heal Black people on various levels.

Tough conversations like this are needed so that Black people feel encouraged to talk about their problems, especially in these most uncertain times. Go and do something about it! Lobby your company to develop a Custom Convo for your team today, and let’s start talking.

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