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  • Writer's pictureEqual Chance


Updated: Apr 14, 2020

Equal Chance is currently working to build a Bilingual Support-line for our community during this challenging COVID-19 period.

Among the Black community, research reveals that there is a relationship between racial discrimination and poor physical and mental health outcomes (Paradies et al., 2015). In addition, fear of discrimination being misunderstood acts as a barrier to access services (Panos & Panos, 2000). Information and communication technologies (ICTs) can bridge the gap between members of underserved marginalized communities who can benefit from supports through innovative methods (Simms et al., 2011). (ICT) encompasses a wide range of technologies used by mental health agencies (Simms et al., 2011). This includes, but is not limited to the usage of telephones, video, emails, video conferencing, and handheld devices (Simms et al., 2011 ; Molyneaux et al., 2009).

The role of peer support workers have increasingly been recognized in terms of its value to foster mental health and addictions recovery (Markoulakis et al. 2018). Black communities are vulnerable to experiences of mental health related to racism (Williams & Williams-Morris, 2000). Racism is associated to the social determinants of health and has adverse effects on Black youth (Galabuzi, 2009; Rioux, 2010; Smylie, 2009). Although having access to a peer support worker would not result in significant changes in the youth’s current social circumstances, it would aim to provide support to address wellbeing and sense of belonging as indicated in the literature (Markoulakis et al., 2018).

According to Statistics Canada, people aged 65 and up account for 17.5% of the country’s population (Statistics Canada, 2017; 2019). As the population ages and more people are living alone, social isolation amongst seniors is emerging as one of the major issues facing the industrialised world because of the adverse impact it can have on health and wellbeing. (Findlay, 2003, p. 647). The benefits of recreational and community social outreach activity participation amongst aging populations is compelling as the literature supports that seniors with higher life satisfaction also report substantial involvement in recreation, leisure and/or social activities (Bevil et al., 1993; Stanley & Freysinger, 1995). Participating in social activities is positively related to mental health and wellbeing as it can potentially decrease incidences of social isolation, loneliness, depression in comparison to their isolated peers (Meis, 2005).

We aspire to develop a national bilingual Support-Line for people of African descent that will offer psycho-social support during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. We aim to provide remote telephone services because some members of the community may not have access to an electronic device or internet. Thus, providing support with a cell phone or a home phone will enable to reach a wider audience. We intend to offer access to the bilingual Support-Line six days a week, Monday until Saturday, 9:00am-9:00pm. We hope to support Black communities across the country in both official languages with the following:

1) Mental health counselling with registered social workers and psychotherapists to address instances of distress, social isolation, mental health challenges, domestic violence, and abuse. 2) Youth peer support with allied health professional undergraduate and graduate students which will provide Black youth with a listening hear, compassion, understanding, embedded in a relational and strengths-based approach.

3) Elderly social outreach to promote their psycho-social well-being with recreational and group activities and address potential social isolation. In order to provide quality mental health counselling, we hope to recruit registered mental health professionals including nationally or provincially registered social workers, counselors, or psychotherapists. They will provide brief and acute crisis interventions in both official languages, but any issues that require acute assistance, assessment, diagnosis, or treatment will be referred to other health professionals and resources in the community. Mental health counselling will be available for people of African descent of all ages in both official languages. In the context of youth peer support, we intend to first and foremost listen to the youth, provide individualized counselling, and re-assurance. The peer-support workers can be the first point of contact, and any acute or urgent need will result in a referral. In order to provide informed, compassionate and culturally responsive youth peer support, we will recruit allied health undergraduate and graduate students from programs such as social work, child and youth care, applied human sciences, recreational sciences, nursing, occupational therapy, counselling, educational psychology, marriage and family therapy, and art-therapy. Youth peer support will be available for individuals aged between 6 and 19 years old. We will have a group of two professionals who will engage in recreational and psycho- educational group activities with seniors with a focus on centering local and community knowledge and valuing seniors’ experiences. For instance, one team member holds a master’s degree of social work from the University of Toronto and has years of experience working in the field of gerontology. The other team member holds a college diploma in activation coordination gerontology for seniors from George Brown College and a college diploma in social service work. The two goals of these activities are complementary and critical to promote holistically well-being. Recreational group activities will enable seniors to connect with one another and mitigate social isolation. Psycho-education group activities will recognize their skills, knowledge and lived experiences while having a sense of autonomy and agency. The seniors group activities will be available to adults aged 65 years and older and will take place twice a week: one group in English, the other in French.

Text written by Johanne Jonathas, Special Projects Manager References Bevil, C., O’Conner, P., & Mattoon, P. (1993). Leisure activity, life satisfaction, and perceived health status in older adults. Gerontology and Geriatrics Education, 14(2), 3-9. Findlay, R.A. (2003). Interventions to reduce social isolation amongst older people: Where is the evidence? Ageing & Society, 23(5), 647-658. Galabuzi, G. E. (2009). Social exclusion. In D. Raphael (Ed.), Social determinants of health: Canadian perspectives (2nd ed., pp. 252–268). Canadian Scholars' Press. Markoulakis, R., Turner, M., Wicik, K., Weingust, S., Dobbin, K., & Levitt, A. (2018). Exploring peer support needs of caregivers for youth with mental illness or addictions concerns in family navigation services. Community Mental Health Journal, 54(5), 555- 561.  Meis, M. (2005). Loneliness in the elderly. Orthopedic Nursing, 4(3), 63-66. Molyneaux, H.,  Gibson, K.,  Simms, D.,  O'Donnell, S.,  Oakley, P.,  Kondratova, I., & Hagerman, V.  (2009). Information and communication technologies for assessing and treating operational stress injury (OSI).  National Research Council.  Panos, P. T., & Panos, A. J. (2000). A model for a culture-sensitive assessment of patients in health care settings. Social Work in Health Care, 31(1), 49-62. Paradies Y, Ben J, Denson N, Elias A, Priest N, Pieterse A, et al. (2015) Racism as a Determinant of Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE, 10(9), e0138511. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138511 Rioux, M. (2010). The right to health: Human rights approaches to health. In D. Raphael, T. (Ed.), Social determinants of health: Canadian perspectives (2nd ed., pp. 280–301). Canadian Scholars' Press. Simms, D. C., Gibson, K., & O'Donnell, S. (2011). To use or not to use: Clinicians' perceptions of tele mental health. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 52(1), 41-51.  Smylie, J. (2009). The health of aboriginal people. In D. Raphael (Ed.), Social determinants of health: Canadian perspectives (2nd ed., pp. 280–301). Canadian Scholars' Press. Stanley, D., & Freysinger, V.J. (1995). The impact of age, health and sex on frequency of older adults leisure activity participation: A longitudinal study. Activity, Adaptation and Aging, 19(3), 31-42. Statistics Canada (2019). Annual Demographic Estimates: Canada, Provinces and Territories. Retrieved from eng.htm Statistics Canada. (2017). A portrait of the population aged 85 and older in Canada. Retrieved from 200-x2016004-eng.cfm Williams, D.R., & Williams-Morris, R. (2000). Racism and mental health: The African American experience. Ethnicity & Health, 5, 243–268.

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