Panel highlights mental health challenges for Black healthcare workers

An image of a painting depicting outstretched hands. They are cupped and painted in blue, orange red, yellow, green and brown.Black Mental Health Week highlighted unique mental health challenges faced by the ACB community. Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.

Community, Health

African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) health care practitioners gathered on Tuesday to discuss mental health in the workplace for ACB community members that work in the health sector.

The Canadians of African Descent Health Organization (CADHO) hosted the event — Black Mental Health Day 2021 — to open a conversation on the experiences of their organization’s members. CADHO has many members who work in the mental health field.

“We always think that it’s only about us, the patients, that we don’t realize the people who take care of us have issues too,” said Joy Osiagwu, facilitator of the March 2 event. “Despite the contributions to the ongoing fight for racial, social and economic justice, the process for ACB people will not be complete until mental health disparities among the group are addressed.”

Today, March 5, marks the end of Black Mental Health Week. Discussions on racial trauma, community healing and resilience have been hosted by numerous groups in Ottawa.

Professor Josephine Etowa, health sciences professor at the University of Ottawa, opened up about the pressures she feels at work.

“I have to prove myself to my white colleagues. I have to prove myself to all the Black staff,” Etowa said. “That in itself puts emotional toll on you.”

Dr. Ade Ahmed, a Black psychotherapist, said stereotypes in the workplace can place pressure on Black medical practitioners to work harder.

“Sometimes you are addressed as if you are really privileged to have this job,” Ahmed said. “So, you are operating from that angle. This puts you on a burning fire to do more.”

Although Black History Month and Black Mental Health week are over, the panelists at Tuesday’s events said the conversation must continue. According to Tuesday’s panelists, the conversation needs to acknowledge challenges that can affect ACB mental health in the workplace.

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