Today is a day when everyone speaks up and speaks out about Canada’s mental health system. Many people will share their experiences, and have an open dialogue. However, on this day I think of those racialized children and youth who often are not apart of these conversations. Their voice is not heard. Their concerns are not taken serious enough.
Being in this privileged position as the Network Coordinator and as a woman of a colour, it is important for me to amplify the voices of those who are told to stay quiet. Who are told they need to keep their mental health a secret.
There is a huge taboo when it comes to discussions around mental health in the South Asian community; my community. Mental illness is not seen as an illness. It is dismissed over and over again.
There are children and youth in my community who are losing their lives to suicide, but no one talks about them. They have been forgotten.
We must develop education, culturally appropriate services and support structures for racialized youth, whose communities are extremely underserved by mainstream mental health services.
The current child and youth mental health system is failing us. Services are not diverse to meet the needs of racialized children and youth. There needs to be more training in anti-oppressive practices, staff diversity, and outreach. We must break the barriers.
When the news of CAMH committing to create new mental health supports for South Asian communities, I was overcome with joy. I couldn’t believe it. It made me feel like there was some hope for my community.
There are incredible organizations like SOCH Mental Health and Naseeha Youth Helpline, who provide services for racialized youth. These are initiatives working towards providing support for communities where mental health is extremely stigmatized.
I look forward to the day when my community can openly and freely speak about mental health without being afraid.
On a day like today, I ask you all to think of those who’ve become invisible to a system that doesn’t care for them.
The conversation must start now. Before it’s too late.
Fizza Abbas, Network Coordinator