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Statement on Anti-Black Racism in Child and Youth Mental Health

Toronto, ON, June 17, 2020

Anti-Black racism is prevalent and entrenched in our communities and organizations. Systemic racism and the police violence, trauma and injustice we have seen in recent news and events are not solely American issues. This is a Canadian issue and it’s an Ontario issue.

Anti-Black racism is also a child and youth mental health issue. The cumulative impact of multiple systems of oppression on Black communities causes trauma and negatively impacts mental well-being. Systemic and institutional racism creates barriers in access and quality of mental health care for Black children, youth and families. At the same time, we know that Black children, youth and families are over-represented in the child welfare and youth justice systems. Without appropriate access to child and youth mental health services, these communities experience poorer mental health outcomes than other communities. This is wrong, unacceptable and has to change.

Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) recognizes we have a lot of work to do. The way we advocate for better quality and access to mental health care needs to change to meaningfully include, elevate and engage Black, Indigenous and racialized children, youth and families. Our work begins with a commitment to search ourselves, as individuals and as an organization, to identify, name and directly confront our own silence and inaction.

CMHO is listening, learning, and unlearning. As a first step, we have committed to embedding anti-racism and anti-oppression training for our team on an ongoing basis and to provide the foundations needed to move our longer-term equity goals forward. Our next steps include working with our member child and youth mental health centres to have frank conversations about equity issues, racism and privilege in the sector and developing concrete plans to move forward an anti-oppression and health equity agenda. There is much more work to do and we are currently planning and identifying broader strategies, and are committed to providing progress updates on this work.

We are committed to creating safe spaces to learn from the expertise and leadership of our resilient Black community members. In addition, we are committed to building genuine relationships with Black communities and supporting, investing and ultimately empowering racialized youth to break down barriers and to develop stronger, more informed leadership for the future.

If you or a young person you know right now is struggling, please reach out for help. Child and youth mental health centres across the province are open and providing counselling and therapy virtually, on the phone, and in-person where needed. Find support near you at www.cmho.org/findhelp.

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