Published on December 23, 2022.
By: Priscilla Wiredu
The Black Mental Health Alliance (BMHA) is a community-based registered charity that works to improve the mental well-being of Black Canadian communities. The BMHA is committed to expanding their movement and creating change with groundbreaking research, strong partnerships, and the help of its staff and community leaders.
They focus on providing innovative and realistic solutions to improve Black mental health and offering financial resources to help create significant change in Black lives.
What They Do
BMHA’s mission is to reduce any racial disparities in mental health work and create practical solutions for Black individuals, while simultaneously combating social determinants of health, primarily racism.
The BHMA upholds many core values when it comes to offering diverse help to Black communities.
Afrocentrism is defined as “the approach to the study of world history that focuses on people of African descent.” Afrocentricity asserts many layers of African cultural expression and values that deserve dignity and respect.
BMHA recognizes that common ancestry is critical for Black people to build healthy and resilient communities, which can range from multi-generational Canadian families to immigrants who have recently moved to Canada.
Collective Work Responsibility
BHMA believes that a partnership is paramount in improving the health and well-being of Black communities. In order to build and maintain communities, they recognize problems as collective and relatable difficulties and work cooperatively to eliminate issues.
BHMA believes good leadership involves a strong shared vision and a commitment to build, network, and engage the right people. They also believe in the importance of leveraging skills and collaboration to deliver and execute their promised goals and vision.
The Black Health Mental Alliance offers many services that target mental health issues and offers resources for Black communities.
Pathways to Care
BHMA community members organize and improve mental health by offering services to Black communities. This led to the introduction of programs such as the Substance Abuse Program for African Canadian and Caribbean Youth (SAPACCY), the Black Enhanced Youth Outreach Program, and other youth-led initiatives aimed at providing resources for Black youths.
Since 2015, the Black Health Alliance has engaged with mental health professionals, community coalitions, and policy-makers to work towards improving services. In 2017, community consultations began between Black youth, Black families, Black community members and stakeholders across Ontario.
Pathways to care is a five-year project that aims to remove barriers and improve access to mental health and addiction services for Black youth and their families in six cities across Ontario. More can be learned about it here.
TAIBU Community Healthcare
‘TAIBU,’ a Kiswahili word, is used by well-wishers as a greeting that means, “Be in Good Health.” TAIBU Community Health Center, located in Malvern, is a community health center that works to make a significant impact to improve the mental well-being of Black Canadian communities in the Greater Toronto Area.
Working with the provincial government and community members, it is the only publicly-funded community health center with a specific mandate to serve local Black communities. Their studies on certain risk factors help them tackle issues related to Black mental health, including but not limited to: racism, poverty, systemic oppression, housing issues, education, and employment.
TAIBU offers programs and services in a culturally respectful Africentric environment to support their community.
The Black Mental Health Challenge
This challenge is to help the majority of participants who are at risk of developing health problems (i.e. type two diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease). Partnering with TAIBU and sponsored by the Canadian Cancer Society, this challenge consists of a 12-week culturally specific lifestyle intervention program to help Black community members lead healthier and happier lifestyles.
The goal is to help advance their nutrition knowledge, engage in creative physical activity, and to lower their risk of developing chronic health diseases and improve their management of existing health conditions. A rundown of their activities is as follows:
- One-hour sessions of culturally appropriate nutrition education delivered by a nutritionist in the target community.
- One special nutrition class with a guest chef providing a heart-healthy, cultural cooking demonstration with nutrition commentary.
- 12 weekly, one-hour sessions of culturally adapted physical activity provided by certified physical activity instructors with experience.
- Week one, six, and 12 health assessments tracking weight, body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure, and random blood glucose (sugar) levels. Health assessments are conducted by licensed health professionals such as registered nurses, certified diabetes educators, and chiropractors.
100% of BHC participants who completed at least two health assessments felt a positive change in at least one of the tested physical parameters, lowering their risk for health problems and aiding in the management of any existing health conditions.
The Black Mental Health Alliance offers a resource list of services for all diverse Black groups. It could be found here.
The Black Mental Health Alliance accepts donations from individuals or organizations interested in their mission. If you wish to contact them or follow them on their social media, their information is as follows:
Black Health Alliance
720 Bathurst Street, Suite 420
M5S 2R4 Canada
Supporting the movement to improve the mental health of Canadian Black communities is a pivotal goal. With over an estimated one million Black people living across Canada, the BHMA works to ensure their clients are taken care of.
Priscilla Wiredu is a writer for this year’s Black Voice project. An alumni of York University, she graduated with Honors where she studied Social Sciences. She then went on to get an Ontario Graduate certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers, and a college certificate in Legal Office Administration at Seneca College. She is currently studying for the LSAT in hopes of going to law school. Her main goal as a Black Voices writer is to ensure Black issues and Black Pride are enunciated through her works.