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Black Mental Health Week

March 1, 2024

“We cannot build peace without justice, and we cannot have justice without truth.” ~ Dr. Jean Augustine

Every February, Canada celebrates the legacies of Black people and their communities during Black History Month. Since the early 1600s, Black Canadians have played a significant role in shaping Canada's history but unfortunately many of their contributions have been marginalized and overlooked. Furthermore, racism had and still has a significant impact on the lives of Black Canadians, including mental health. With the work of advocates like Rosemary Sadlier and Dr. Jean Augustine, February was officially recognized as Black History Month in Ontario in 1993 and later nationwide in 1995. The establishment of Black History Month in Canada not only highlights how Canada has benefited from the work of Black Canadians, but also highlights many of the barriers Black people in Canada continue to face.

Black Mental Health Week is an annual event dedicated to elevating Black voices raising awareness about the enduring effects of systemic, anti-Black racism on the mental health of Black communities, both historically and presently. This year, the theme, “Growth and Reflection”, ties with the last year of the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent.


Mental Health in Black Communities in Canada

According to a survey conducted by the Mental Health Commission, only 38.3% of Black Canadians with mental health issues used mental health services between 2001-2014 in comparison to 50.8% of White Canadians. Another longitudinal Canadian study found that Black immigrants were more likely to develop moderate to high mental distress than any other ethnicity.


Racism and Intergenerational Trauma

Slavery, segregation, systemic racism and day to day injustices have contributed to cycles of trauma, deeply affecting Black communities. This ongoing trauma perpetuates a cycle of psychological distress, manifesting as higher rates of depression, anxiety, and PTSD among Black Canadians. Addressing racism and intergenerational trauma–when the impacts of trauma are passed down from one generation to another–is crucial for promoting healing and resilience among Black individuals, families, and communities.



Stigmatizing beliefs and perceptions around mental health is a major barrier for accessing mental health care. A study of the Black community conducted by Ottawa Public Health found that 66% of respondents agreed that most people think less of a person who has a mental illness. Moreover, 40% also agreed that taking treatment for a mental health problem is a sign of personal failure.


Need for Culturally Competent Care

According to a survey conducted in 2018, 60% of respondents reported that they would be more willing to speak to a mental health professional if they were Black. Building trust can be challenging when the individual seeking help doubts the professional's ability to empathize with their experience or share a common ground. According to, a strong therapeutic alliance between a therapist and client is essential for achieving positive mental health outcomes.” Given the historical impacts of racism, Black Canadians may feel safer and thus are more likely to develop a strong therapeutic alliance with a therapist from a similar culture.


Mental Health Awareness

Studies have found that difficulty recognizing symptoms of depression and a lack of information about mental health have hindered Black people, particularly older adults, from seeking mental health services at the onset of symptoms. This limited mental health literacy among Black communities in Canada has been identified as a barrier to seeking psychological help.


What is PeerWorks doing?

At PeerWorks, we are dedicated to continual learning as well as intentionally weaving anti-racism practices throughout our work. In addition to our internal work, we proactively support initiatives that enhance accountability and action in the fight against anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, and other forms of racism to ensure that Ontario peer support movements remain safe and accessible for all.

Most recently, we began delivering our six-session training module, entitled “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Training: A Proactive Approach for Improving the Culture of Organizations.” Our first session explored the intersection of mental health and racism. Upcoming training modules include diversity of thought and understanding unconscious bias. We are offering this training to our membership to increase knowledge and capacity among peer supporters and peer support organizations.



We have compiled a list of resources to help the Black community in Canada access mental health resources.

      Black Mental Health Canada

      Black Health Alliance

      TAIBU Community Health Centre

      Women’s Health in Women’s Hands

      Black Creek Community Health Centre

      Across Boundaries