BIPOC Navigating Mental Health
On May 29th, we invited 4 speakers to discuss the barriers Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) face when navigating mental health care. Here’s a recap of the discussion.
Q: Why do you believe BIPOC face challenges when navigating the healthcare system and mental health services? What are the barriers?
- Issues like BIPOC underrepresentation among treatment providers, feeling like they’re not a priority, and financial barriers contribute to BIPOC being less likely to reach out for mental health professionals.
- 70% of all police calls are mental health related and White individuals were 12x more likely to be referred for mental health issues compared to BIPOC.
Mental health issues are more likely to be disregarded as cultural problems without diving deep into the core issues.
- Intersectionality (e.g., being a person of colour, being queer, being neurodivergent) isn’t being focused on enough and there’s not enough intention on learning about BIPOC experiences at the individual level.
Q: Why do you believe there are so few BIPOC mental health professionals in Canada?
- Not a lot of support for graduate students going into therapy related education and the topics they are interested in aren’t being embraced.
There’s a lack of diversity in mental health related fields
- In western culture, historically therapy has been for White cis middle class women. Most clients are cis and White which is why professionals are less educated on BIPOC issues.
- One speaker added BIPOC/trans trauma has been normalized federally. BIPOC and queer/trans BIPOC have been dehumanized. There’s not enough resources, not enough funding, and they don’t feel safe enough to access services.
Q: Can White mental health professionals adequately support their BIPOC clients?
- A White mental health professional will be more likely to face challenges in being able to properly help BIPOC because their view point is skewed due to privilege. The professional wont be able to fully resonate with the BIPOC experience. Should they endeavour to try, they have to be willing to experience discomfort and unlearn biases, which can be too taxing for some. This may be easier for BIPOC providers who could relate.
- However, BIPOC representation alone won’t solve all the problems. Being BIPOC does not necessarily guarantee empathy and understanding of their BIPOC clients.
- In terms of treating BIPOC, White mental health professionals are somewhat at a disadvantage as their post-secondary education is limited to treating “baseline” groups (i.e., White populations). There’s also a lack of cultural considerations in the models of therapy state wide.
Q: What can we do to promote BIPOC safety when we’re mostly reliant on White mental health professionals?
- Informally interview your provider to gauge if they’re the right fit for you (Example: “Do you have experience treating ______?”). Be honest and truthful about your needs.
- Ask your provider questions to learn about them (e.g., gender identity, anti-racist efforts). Some may not feel comfortable disclosing this, but that in itself is telling!
Providers should be more willing to refer clients to other providers or provide resources if they don’t feel they can adequately support the client.
- Enquire about a sliding scale fee with mental health treatment providers. This is when providers charge different rates based on client’s income level or financial limitations.
Q: Any affordable resources you recommend?
- Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310; www.hopeforwellness.ca
- Healing Roots Therapy (Mississauga, Ontario)
- Therapy for Black Girls Podcast
- Affordable Therapy Network (Toronto, ON)
- Black Mental Health Connections
- Alicia Elliott (Author)
- You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience (Book)