UFCW Canada participates in Black Health Alliance Mental Health Forum

Toronto – December 17, 2015 – UFCW Canada's National Office and UFCW Canada Local 1000A recently participated in a Toronto forum highlighting the topic of mental health in the black community. The forum was co-ordinated by the Black Health Alliance, a not-for-profit organization working to reduce the racial disparities that impact health outcomes.

Approximately 150 community members, social justice organizations, and professionals working in the health care and not-for-profit sectors heard from a number of speakers discussing mental health issues in the black community. Dr. Kwame McKenzie, CEO of the Wellesley Institute and Director of Equity at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, presented remarks on the impact of social determinants, such as racism, on mental health. 

Dr. McKenzie spoke about the issue of racism-related stress, which accounts for greatly increased stress among individuals who identify as black in Canada. Among the range of possible solutions to improving mental health outcomes in the black community, McKenzie said that the development of emotional intelligence "allows us to understand how we connect with each other and assess our impact on others."

Early intervention methods were noted as being essential to a person's mental health recovery.  Therapy was also found to be more successful when it was culturally sensitive and adapted to the diversity of the client. According to the statistics presented by Dr. McKenzie, there are currently 31,000 hospitalizations for people diagnosed with psychosis in Canada, and this costs our health care system over $7 billion. The risk of developing psychosis within the Canadian immigrant population is also two to three times higher than it is for the general population.

Mental health issues can affect a worker’s ability to bring their entire self to the workplace.  UFCW Canada supports the work of the Black Health Alliance, and we stand in solidarity with the Canadian black community. Accordingly, our union is committed to eliminating the systemic barriers that exist for racialized individuals who suffer from mental health issues. By working together, we can improve mental health outcomes in Canada's racialized and immigrant communities.