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Black Lives Matter: Let’s Talk About Mental Health Reform
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Black Lives Matter - cartoon looking right.

Following the murder of George Floyd in the United States, protests against police brutality have erupted all over the world. Innocent Black men and women are being murdered consistently at the hands of the police due to deep-rooted racism within our society. With the rise of social media, these murders are being recorded and shared, causing outrage over the anti-black sentiment within our publicly funded institutions. People want to redirect resources to organizations that focus on community mediation, violence interruption programs, and mental health care, which would be done by defunding the police. This would be a monumental step in the fight for equal care, with the inclusion of culturally responsive mental health treatment.

People want to redirect resources to organizations that focus on community mediation, violence interruption programs, and mental health care, which would be done by defunding the police.(Photo by Koshu Kunii)

North America has a long history of systemic racism towards people of color. Black Canadians and Americans are more likely to be unemployed than any other visible minority causing economic instability among their communities. Emerging data shows a strong correlation between high COVID-19 rates and low-income neighborhoods. Black people are dying at a higher rate from the novel coronavirus compared to white people due to these financial imbalances. As predominantly black neighborhoods are often denser, this leads to a higher rate of viral transmission.

There are many layers to the discrimination that BIPOC communities face, all are contributors to poor health outcomes. This includes limited access to mental health treatment, which is crucial for people living amongst high rates of COVID-19. Evidence shows that the current pandemic is triggering mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, therefore this is a critical time for people to have access to affordable mental health care.

The adult Black community is already 20% more likely to experience mental illnesses such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. This is due to historical, social, economic, and political factors that Black individuals have been systemically exposed to that are known to be damaging to one’s physical and mental health. Intergenerational trauma rooting back to slavery, oppression, colonialism, and segregation also plays a role in psychological issues in modern times.

Additionally, there is a lack of trust in the medical system amongst Black communities caused by a history of abuse and discrimination in the healthcare system. Limited access to adequate insurance also prevents low-income families from receiving support, as psychological treatment can be a large financial burden. Consequently, only 30% of African American adults receive treatment for their mental illnesses versus the United States average of 43%.

At OPTT, we believe in reducing disparities by encouraging the use of affordable, accessible, and culturally sensitive mental health care. We have taken the steps to implement this in our online platform and encourage other mental health providers to do the same.


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