Black Mental Health Day with Felisha Avelar

By Humber River Health

The first Monday of March is recognized as Black Mental Health Day, to bring awareness to mental health and wellness, and amplify the voices of Black Communities. Felisha Avelar, a Program Service Assistant for Surgical Services at Humber River Health, has shed insight into the day and provided strategies to improve one’s mental health.

Felisha Avelar

Why is it important to raise awareness for mental health in the Black Community?
People of colour face unique challenges when it comes to addressing mental health. These challenges are rooted in systemic discrimination, environmental factors, and personal experiences, presenting barriers that prevent many from accessing care. These barriers include lack of access to mental health services, lack of culturally competent care, and stigma around seeking help. Addressing these barriers is essential to ensuring that everyone has access to the care they truly deserve.

In order to address these challenges, reducing stigma around mental illness is imperative. While the resolve to this much-needed change is complex, steps to foster this can involve education to change perceptions, working with community organizations who have built trust within the established communities to remove barriers, and intentional campaigns aimed at raising awareness around culturally appropriate services.

How do you encourage others to maintain a good mental well-being?
Each of us has our personal journey towards this change. In my personal journey, I have been lucky to pin point what helps me and how I can access resources that aid in making sure I have the care and support I need. I find meditation, therapy, physical exercise, and even immersing myself in nature help me reduce known stressors and lowers my anxiety around mental health challenges.

While it may appear that many resources are directed towards Black communities, a level of trust needs to be built for individuals in these communities to take the necessary steps towards accessing these resources. Actively promoting these resources and connecting to what draws you in, whether that is nature, physical activity, literature, or group discussions, is an important step. Carefully addressing our mental health needs starts with you taking the time for yourself to find what may work for you.

No matter what direction our heart pulls us, it is truly empowering to find what works for you and taking the best care of your mental health.