Need for Black mental health therapists in Saskatchewan
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I have commenced this petition from the perspective of a Black woman living in Regina who has had first-hand experience with racism, whose children face racism in the education system, who, as a student leader, has had to, and continue to, provide support to racialized individuals whose fear of being unheard or their issues dismissed seek informal supports like me to unpack their struggles or suffer in silence. I speak through the lens of a registered social worker, former elementary school teacher and an advocate for social justice and equality.
The pervasiveness of racial discrimination in society cannot be denied, even in our province of Saskatchewan and city of Regina. It often occurs in the form of overt gestures and actions, while others are covertly done in the form of micro-aggression. Racism and racialized experiences can have detrimental impacts on one’s mental health. A Black or racialized individual is not responsible for racism and discrimination that exists in society; however, it can be burdensome. Minimizing and dismissing these experiences can further amplify the stressors associated with these oppressive experiences. There is a huge problem of racism not being understood as a traumatic experience. Consequently, Black people who seek support from white therapists who lack an anti-racist perspective may experience a triggering element, especially for those Blacks who have faced oppression from white individuals. Such a dynamic can impede the development of a therapeutic relationship based on the Black client’s discomfort in unpacking his/her racialized experience to someone who may not be able to assimilate these experiences. A good case in point is the recent suicide of Kaleab Schmidt in Balgonie. Close friends recall him repeatedly expressing that his white empathizers did not understand what he was going through. Even when he shared his experiences with members of his school community who were in the capacity to offer support, they were minimized and dismissed resulting in his suicide.
Research indicates that providing mental health support to racialized groups require an ethno-racial and ethno-cultural knowledge which includes an anti-racist and anti-oppressive approach. If white therapists lack this perspective and are unwilling to educate themselves about the variants of each racialized group, there is the risk of traumatization or worsening the problem. Culture plays a major role in the perspective of clients in sharing their experiences with mental health therapists and the method of treatment offered by providers. Without having a cultural perspective into the lived experiences of racialized clients, therapists and clinicians run the risk of misunderstanding and or misdiagnosing. This can lead to the dismissal and denial of the systematic oppression that contributes to the compromised mental health of those of colour who have faced discrimination and oppression at all levels in society. Quite recently Samwel Uko’s cry for help was met with deaf ears as he ended up leaving the Regina Public Hospital after his request for help was not taken seriously enough. He ended up committing suicide due to mental health problems the same day he visited the hospital and was denied care and had no advocate or representative to speak on his behalf.
It is common for Blacks to be stereotyped and for these imposed stereotypical labels to be used to generalize their experiences in order to use a single therapy to treat all mental health issues.
In Saskatchewan, there is yet to exist any formal Black mental health supports for Blacks who face racism and suffer in silence out of fear that seeking support from a white therapist has the propensity to contribute to re-traumatization. Many have complained about having to over-explain their experiences or feeling unsupported due to the lack of understanding by a white therapist. Some have shared narratives of using their clinical time to educate their therapist about their ethnicity and culture. While research purports that sameness should not be a keen element in accessing counselling/ mental health therapy, having only the option of a white therapist deprives Blacks and racialized groups from the option to choose. Scholars and evidence-based research also alludes to the fact that having representative options for therapy helps in increasing accessibility to said services by individuals who would not have normally done so. It is time to offer more support to Black Mental Health by being more creative and strategic. This petition seeks to demand reform in the area of mental health support for Blacks and other racialized groups in Regina and by extension, Saskatchewan.
· Acknowledge the role of systematic oppression in the mainstream mental health care with the dominant perspective used to treat racialized group
· Make mental health care accessible and affordable to all Blacks by providing subsidy where necessary
· More strategic recruitment and funding to include more racialized counsellors and therapist
· Less use of biomedical drugs to treat racialized clients and instead use psychotherapy or gain understanding of black mental health experiences and tailor specific treatments for same
· Training for clinicians and mental health therapists need to go beyond the white dominant culture.
· Include training in ethno-racial perspectives and anti-racism
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