How anti-black racism impacts mental health

The City of Toronto's new campaign by Public promotes the declaration of the first Black Mental Health Day.

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Awareness of the need for greater mental health services appears to grow every year, yet what is often overlooked are the harmful effects racism and racial inequalities have on individuals’ mental health.

It’s for that reason that Toronto’s TAIBU Community Health Centre and the City of Toronto are working with agency Public to launch the first Black Mental Health Day on the heels of Black History Month, celebrated annually during the month of February.

A series of posters and social posts created by Public seek to raise awareness of the effects of racism on mental health and encourage Torontonians to participate in the event on March 2, when mayor John Tory will proclaim the creation of Black Mental Health Day – making Toronto one of the first cities to publicly acknowledge the impacts of anti-black racism on mental health, according to a press release.

In addition to social posts and posters appearing in transit shelters across the GTA until Feb. 23, the organization is doing direct outreach to local community groups and influencers to help spread the word.

The goal, says Public writer Julian Battersby-Morris, is to reach both the black and non-black communities in Toronto.

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“We want black viewers to feel their unique experiences of racism are reflected and validated, in their depth, and diversity. For (non-black, but especially) white audiences of relatively great privilege, we want to inspire reflection on the pervasive nature of anti-black racism, and the urgent need for acknowledgement of its mental health impacts,” Battersby-Morris wrote in an email. “The broader takeaway for both is that a special day for acknowledging and addressing black people’s mental health as a city is overdue.”

Events are being held throughout the city on March 2, following the declaration, with the goal of encouraging further conversation on the issue. For example, RISE Edutainment, a group of artists and activists, will host a panel discussion, and Toronto Public Health will host a series of internal lunch and learns on Mondays throughout March with the goal of teaching frontline staff how they can better support the city’s diverse populations.

Finally, to help grow the movement, the city of Toronto will encourage the federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada to recognize the day in their own jurisdictions.

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