More mental health supports for BIPOC communities needed amid events of the past year, experts say

The experiences over the past year for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) communities are not a monolith, but there has been a recurring theme of generational trauma being brought to the surface.

“I think we've seen recently that this discovery of these 215 indigenous children in a residential school, that's a whole new traumatizing event for Indigenous people,” said Teresa Smith, a registered psychotherapist who specializes in the care of the BIPOC community.

According to Smith, recent events, in addition to a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and the reignition of the Black Civil Rights movement, have seen the mental health of many in racialized communities shaken.

“The most hurtful thing is now it's believed because there's evidence. This is only the beginning,” said Donna Dubie, the founder and executive director of The Healing of Seven Generations.

According to Dubie, there is a long road ahead. The Healing of Seven Generations, a staple in the waterloo region for 20 years, is a home for everyone to heal and to grieve.

Culturally sensitive support is vital, Dubie said.

“Our cultural teachings...it's utilizing the elements: the fire, the water, the air and the earth and how important it is for those elements to help us in our grief," she said.

According to Smith, much like a physical injury, trauma requires healing and unique support.

The healing process looks different for everyone in the BIPOC community according to both Smith and Dubie. Whether it is in a structured setting or rooted in more cultural practices, they both note that it is important to always keep the conversation going.

The Healing of Seven Generations has been holding outdoor, physically distanced ceremonial gatherings and also provide links to mental health support online.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) of Waterloo Wellington is looking to change the way they collect data based on race.

“We want to be able to track those needs, and trends and themes because we want to know first of all what our community needs and how we can better respond,” said Helen Fishburn, the chief executive of the CMHA Waterloo Wellington.

According to Dubie, there has been an outpouring of support from the community in the wake of last week's horrific discovery.

She hopes to connect with municipal officials to find a way to move forward together towards truth and reconciliation.

MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES IN THE COMMUNITY:

The Healing of Seven Generations

CMHA Waterloo Wellington

To connect with Teresa Smith and other BIPOC Therapists visit tsmiththerapy.com.