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January: ACB Mental Health Month
Mental health in the Afro-Caribbean Black (ACB) community is a severe concern that tends to go unnoticed within the Black community. Black community members struggle with personal trauma in many circumstances, where many tend to work through issues independently. Many ACB people do not feel vulnerable enough to seek help and speak with mental health professionals, which causes some never to address their personal concerns.
MENTAL HEALTH IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY IS A SECRET
The severe nature of anti-Black racism is often the catalyst for African descent people’s mental health concerns. Anti-Black racism rears its head to disrupt Black Canadians’ livability in many shapes and forms: an experience common among the Canadian ACB community. The exclusive race-based discrimination towards ACB people has no bounds to impact their lives, as it situates itself in institutions, such as schools and workplaces, and differing social spaces. Although there have been recent calls by Canadian governments (Federal, provincial and municipal) and private sectors to challenge anti-Black racism, it remains social oppression among ACB Canadians that does not seem to be slowing down any time soon. For instance, there are still Canadian ACB university students who encounter anti-Black behaviours from those in a position to educate and empower them. Recently, uOttawa and Windsor University had two separate incidents where non-racialized professors used the n-word while unrecognizing the trauma it can cause among ACB students. Black students protest the professors’ actions; it seems to go on deaf ears as these senseless acts of anti-Black racism continue to resurface in academic spaces. In these situations, ACB students cannot seek a sense of liberation informal learning spaces that are meant to be safe. Also, in these anti-Black situations, these students’ ability to learn is gravely disrupted. Many Black students risk dropping out of post-secondary education or underachieving academically, making it significantly more difficult for them to qualify for graduate study programs. Consequently, ACB Canadians encounter anti-Black racism as a constant struggle that impacts their cognition and mental health, disrupting their learning process and affecting how they operate as Canadian citizens in mainstream society.
During January’s mental health awareness month, the Afro-Caribbean Mentorship Program (ACMP) will continue to empower and support ACB students, and the broader ACB communities, by providing necessary support to address the mental health concerns in the Black community. To do so, the ACMP will be intentional through four main approaches: (1) a social media messaging campaign, (2) Addressing mental health: Using entertainment to locate and discuss our traumas, (3) weekly check-ins and (4) a panel discussion.
The ACMP will work from three principles to address mental health in the ACB community: Trauma-informed, Belonging-focused, & Strength-based.
To ensure that this discussion is trauma-informed, attentive to stigma, and the information provided is correct, the ACMP will engage with a range of experts from the mental health field.
Social media messaging campaign
Each week the ACMP will have a theme connected to mental health.
- Stigma and barriers to mental health support by Dr. Adams;
- Trauma by Meghan Wills;
- Anxiety and Depression by CAMH: Tracy Charles
- Substance (ab)use by Kofi Morris.
Each day, messages will be distributed over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that explore this specific theme. These messages will have a consistent format that clearly indicates it is part of the mental health month. The messages will also contain a link to the ACMP website, a list of mental health resources, and an explanation of mental health month activities.
Changing the Narrative: Using entertainment to locate and discuss our traumas– January, Friday 22nd, 2021
The use of entertainment can, at times, encourage critical thinking and moments of reflection. Through movies and tv dramas, it is particularly where audience members can view how social oppressions impact people. With many entertaining moments, audience members are reminded that anti-Black racism is a reality not only on screen but also a continuous struggle for the ACB community. Visually, entertainment (fiction or nonfiction) shows how black men, women and children are oppressed in our contemporary societies. These visuals still seem to unmove oppressors from stripping the humanity from ACB people, where they suffer extreme measures of mental health concerns.
To address mental health concerns in the Black community, the Afro-Caribbean Mentorship Program (ACMP) has organized its second, FREE movie screening, with an open and thought-provoking discussion to follow.
Hosted by Warren Clarke, the event will screen the following:
1) Black Mirror Eps. Black Museum (20 mins)
Description – Haynes’ Black Museum is a highway attraction out in the desert that houses criminology artifacts. When a young ACB woman named Nish, played by Letitia Wright (Black Panther, Suri), enters the museum, enticing audience members to assume she has time to kill. However, Nish has other plans to address deep-rooted family concerns that impacted her immediate family members’ mental health.
2) Movie – Sick (30 mins)
Description – A Story about the challenges of a young ACB man with mental health issues. Paul McKenzie made this film with young people during a 1 week half-term holiday period.
3) Thought-provoking discussion (1 hour)
The ACMP goal is to foster an inclusive and safe space for students, professionals and community members from all walks of life to communicate, learn, and discuss the mental health concerns among the ACB community.
Themes – Black masculinity, Black femininity, Black family, white supremacy, mental health, Blackness, Criminalization
ACMP recognizes that the fiction behind the films portrays and acknowledges a social reality that many Black Canadians and Americans deal with daily. We use this film not only to entertain our guests but also to encourage critical thinking.
When: Friday, January 22nd, 2021
Time: 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Leading questions for group discussion – 1 hr to host a group discussion
- In what ways can ACB people seek and sustain positive approaches to mental health concerns?
- How can you act as an ally in helping ACB people you know to seek help to address mental health concerns?
- In what ways can we, as an ACB community, start feeling vulnerable to seek help to address our mental health concerns?
Weekly check-in (Wednesday, January 6, 13, 20, 27)
Every week there will be a one hour and a half “check-in,” focusing on the specific topic of the week, followed by “social hour,” where folks will chat and spend time in the (digital) company.
This meeting will be facilitated by an ACMP member and a mental health expert specializing in the week’s topic. The expert will first summarize the online discussions, provide feedback based on their work and experience for half an hour. In the final hour, participants can ask questions.
This is a zoom meeting where folks can meet and talk. The goal is to be social, not therapeutic. The format will be an open meeting, with some icebreakers or another way for folks to introduce themselves at the start.
Incentives: For each of these social check-ins, ACMP will offer a counselling session with one ACB youth expert.
- Wed Jan 6, 7 pm – 8:30 pm: Stigma and barriers to mental health support by Everett L. Adams II;
Mental health stigma stops people from recognizing mental health as important and never a prevalent issue. Everyone has mental health concerns, and everyone will experience mental health stressors at one point or another in their life. Stigma makes us believe that mental health is something to be ashamed of, and it stops people from recognizing their own issues, from talking about their issues, supporting each other or seeking support. Both mental health stigma and barriers to mental health support are shaped in specific ways by anti-Black racism and look different within our respective ACB communities. During this conversation, Dr. Adams will discuss what stigma means, what it looks like, what barriers ACB people can experience when seeking support. Share strategies to mitigate both the stigma and the barriers. Afterwards, there will be ample opportunity to ask questions.
- Wed Jan 13, 7 pm – 8:30 pm: Trauma by Meghan Wills;
Trauma is an emotional response to a distressing event or series of connected events. Trauma can be intergenerational as well, “a cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations, emanating from massive group trauma” (Brave Heart, Maria Y.H. (1998). The return to the sacred path: Healing the historical trauma response among the Lakota. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 68(3), 287-305). In this conversation, Meghan Wills will engage with the ACB community on trauma, especially intergenerational, due to anti-Black racism and as experienced by different ACB communities. Also, Mehgan will discuss specific strengths ACB people and communities can leverage to mitigate trauma. Afterwards, there will be ample opportunity to ask questions.
- Wed Jan 20, 7 pm – 8:30 pm: Anxiety and Depression by Tracy Charles (CMHA);
Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health issues. Everyone can sometimes feel anxious or depressed and may need support or skills to cope as best as possible. For many other people, anxiety and depression are experienced to such a degree, and for such a long time, their lives are impacted by it. Tracy Charles will explain what both entail and how to recognize them, share strategies to mitigate and cope, and best recognize and support people who live with anxiety and depression. Afterwards, there will be ample opportunity to ask questions.
- Wed Jan 27, 7 pm – 8:30 pm: Substance (ab)use by Kofi Morris;
Many people use different substances, including alcohol. People use substances to address different needs: to celebrate, to relax, to stop the stress, to forget sadness or to socialize. When people can only address one or more of those needs with substances when those substances disrupt their life, and stopping seems impossible, this can be called a substance use disorder. Kofi Morris will discuss what substance use looks like in our respective communities, how substance use disorders impact people, strategies to cope or work towards change, and how to support people. Often people who use substances are stigmatized, which is very harmful. Instead, our communities’ unique strengths should be used to support people who struggle with substance use. Afterwards, there will be ample opportunity to ask questions.
Panel discussion: Bringing it all Together – January, Friday 29th, 2021
After all the weekly presentations are complete, the four featured experts will conduct a panel discussion to address Mental Health concerns in our ACB community during the month campaign. The purpose is to explore the four themes further and provide further insight into how our ACB communities can heal.
The discussion is a 2-hour event. The panel will go for an hour, and in the final hour, the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions or provide practical recommendations.
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Live stream: Facebook live / YouTube.
- Meghan Willis
- Dr. Everett El. Adams II
- Kofi Morris
- Tracy Charles: CMHA
The panel discussion will be recorded and processed into video material distributed during Black History Month (February).
The ACMP focuses on providing ACB youth with the opportunity to openly and safely talk about mental health issues with mental health professionals. By creating a safe space for ACB students to connect with experts in the field, we hope to empower students by granting them access to tools and resources to seek help. Additionally, we hope to raise awareness about the wide spectrum of mental health issues that affect the ACB community and reduce the stigmas associated with mental illness. This can include promoting positive behaviours that encourage people to seek help and inspire others to consider their own emotional well-being.
To ensure that this discussion is trauma-informed, attentive to stigma, and the information provided is correct, the ACMP will consult with a range of experts from the mental health field.