• By: Kat Walcott

City of Ottawa proclaims March 1-7 Black Mental Health Week

Press Release via Ottawa Black Mental Health CoalitionWhile Canadians are beginning to talk more about mental health and remove the stigma of getting help, many in Black communities find it difficult to speak openly about mental health.

It’s the youth dealing with uncertainty surrounding their future. It’s the parent struggling to make ends meet. It’s the business owner grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the grandparent still dealing with generational trauma. It’s the immigrant struggling to find community and belonging.

With one of the fastest growing Black communities in Canada and a reputation for global innovation, Ottawa can be a leader in not only providing access to culturally informed resources and supports, and safe spaces for coping and healing, but in developing innovative solutions to Black mental health. By increasing the availability of Black mental health professionals and building partnerships with mainstream healthcare providers, we can help alleviate the pressures facing Black people in Ottawa.

While many individuals and organizations in our community have become more aware of the many issues facing Black communities in recent years, there is much more work to be done.

Black Mental Health Week

The City of Ottawa’s proclamation of Tuesday, March 1st to Monday, March 7th, 2022 as Black Mental Health Week provides an opportunity to not only shed light on the unique issues and traumas facing Black communities, but also to spark a citywide dialogue and commitment to improving the mental, social and economic well-being of Black people.

The theme for this year’s program is Leadership and Innovation highlighting regional and national agencies who have taken a leadership role in finding innovative ways to tackle Black mental health.

“The past two years have been especially difficult for Black communities in Ottawa”, explains Michelle James. “We believe that as the capital city of Canada, Ottawa can take a leadership role in tackling Black mental health. It’s time. While progress has been made, people are still struggling. We need our decision makers and health care providers to lock arms with us and help us through these challenging times”.

This year, the Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition is challenging Ottawa’s business community and civic leaders to stand up and work with us in not only making Ottawa a better place for Black people, but in letting them know they truly matter.

The week’s panels, activities and performances aim to shed light upon the unique mental health challenges faced by ACB communities, as well as to engage members of government, health care and the community to take actionable steps to address racism and racial discrimination.

The Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition will host three events throughout the week’s activities.

  • Launch Event: March 1, 2022 @ 8:30 am-10 am, Celebrating Leadership in the ACB Community, this event will highlight leaders in community practice providing culturally responsive programming to meet the needs of ACB communities.
  • Keynote Event: March 4, 2022 @ 1 pm-2:30 pm, Innovative Approaches in Action, this event will center innovative clinical practices in Black mental health services.
  • Closing Event: March 7, 2022 @ 6 pm- 7:30 pm, Leading Our Community Towards Healing and Growth, this event aims to highlight healing and growth practices to incorporate into our individual and collective well being journeys.

Register for all events via Eventbrite HERE.

Calls to Action

Working in collaboration with mental health service partners, the Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition is calling upon leaders in government, mental health professionals and advocates and the community to:

  • Improve access to high quality, culturally competent mental health services for Black communities
  • Increase the range of community-based programs where ACB communities live and gather
  • Create safe spaces for ACB community members to foster healing and affirm their resilience
  • Hire more ACB mental health professionals at all service levels who can understand the effects of racial trauma and grief, offering services that are responsive to the Black experience
  • Ensure adequate representation of Black people throughout all levels of health and social services, particularly at the leadership level
  • Promote health equity frameworks tied to accountability agreements in our programs and services
  • Collect race-based data to address, monitor and narrow health disparities
  • Embed mandatory anti-racism and anti-oppression training for mental health professionals

About the Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition

The Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition is a network of more than 20 Black leaders in health and social services, academics, and community associations who have been convening to identify systemic changes that can improve the mental health and well-being of Black residents in Ottawa.

Their goal is to ensure accessible, culturally responsive mental health supports that consider the diversity and intersectionality of the African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) community.

For more information: www.obmhc.cawww.facebook.com/OBMHC