Recognizing Black Mental Health Day
Today marks Black Mental Health Day, recognized annually on the first Monday in March. Created in 2020 by the city of Toronto in partnership with TAIBU Community Health Centre, the day aims to raise awareness about the impacts of anti-Black racism on the mental health of Black communities; to promote resources for wellbeing and support; and to encourage systemic change to discriminatory policy and practice.
Anti-Black racism, as the City of Toronto recognized in 2020, represents a crisis in public health, one that harms both the mental and physical wellbeing of Black communities. The systemic nature of anti-Black racism also gives a discriminatory shape to health’s social determinants, with Black communities facing unequal access to education, legal services, employment and housing and wellbeing supports. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has exerted a disproportionate impact on Canada’s Black communities, has only exacerbated centuries of existing injustice.
The University of Toronto condemns all forms of anti-Black racism; acknowledges racism’s inter-generational impacts on mental and physical health; and affirms a commitment to initiatives and resources that support the wellbeing of Black communities. Members of the University community have assumed a public leadership role in anti-racist learning, including Dr. Onye Nnorom, in her interviews on Race, Health & Happiness; Dr. Maydianne Andrade, in her podcast on The New Normal; and Dr. Roberta Timothy, in her leadership of Black Health Matters, a Black-run research project about COVID-19’s impact on the Black and African diaspora.
Concurrently, the university will continue to enable structures of support, including Restore @ U of T, which provides a space to address anti-Black racism through restorative activities and to facilitate dialogue centred on racialized identities. The same commitment to community solidarity and anti-racist action exists in U of T’s Connections and Conversations affinity group, which includes a strong chapter focused at UTM. For more information about ongoing initiatives in wellbeing, mental health and intersectional anti-racism, I encourage you to consult the Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office at U of T, along with the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Offices at UTM and UTSC.
I also encourage staff, faculty and librarians to access additional supports through U of T’s Wellness Hub and Employee and Family Assistance Program: the latter remains available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Students may access supports on U of T’s centralized page for Health and Wellness; on UTM’s Mental Health Website; and through My SSP, which will continue offering counselling, conversation and care 24/7/365, in multiple languages, through an app and toll free number: 1-844-451-9700 inside North America; 001-416-380-6578 outside North America.