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Black Mental Health Day

Today, March 2, marks the first annual Black Mental Health Day, recognized by communities across Ontario. I would like to take this opportunity to say congratulations, and to recognize the leadership shown by Liben Gebremikael and his team at TAIBU Community Health Centre who, along with the Black Health Alliance and City of Toronto, have worked to make the inaugural Toronto Black Mental Health Day a reality. This important day not only raises awareness of Black mental health, but brings together people and organizations across sectors to share ideas and solutions.

Following in these footsteps, we at the Alliance for Healthier Communities are excited to learn that Somerset West Community Health Centre in Ottawa worked with municipal leaders to proclaim March 2 as Black Mental Health Day in Ottawa. As well, members of the NDP Black Caucus are working to proclaim Black Mental Health Day throughout Ontario with a private member's bill. These steps and progress could not have been made without the leadership of TAIBU CHC, the Black Health Alliance and the City of Toronto.

Raising awareness and encouraging action on Black mental health across our health and social systems is a key goal of the day. We're joining together with other organizations to draw attention to the impact that anti-Black racism continues to have on the mental health of Black people as they navigate Ontario's health, education, child welfare, housing and other government systems. This impact is evident when we examine the higher rates of incarceration, school suspensions, poor health outcomes, and the gaps in race-specific data for Black communities.

Just last week, Statistics Canada released a report showing that the 1.2 million Black people living in Canada continue to face barriers in education and economic opportunities. Although the same report pointed to increased resilience among Black communities, it's not currently possible for us to know what the national picture is when it comes to gaps in health and wellbeing, including mental health. It's why we, along with Black health leaders, continue to focus on calls for the collection of race-based and socio-demographic data by health providers as the key to understanding and addressing systemic barriers and gaps faced by Black communities.

There is still much to be done, but Black Mental Health day is a profound stepping stone in the journey to change. I'd like to again congratulate and thank all parties involved for bringing this special day to the public.

Monday, March 2, 2020
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