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Supporting the mental health needs of black children and youth: Unpacking systemic barriers while creating a therapeutic environment

Supporting the mental health needs of black children and youth: Unpacking systemic barriers while creating a therapeutic environment

As professionals working in mental health support, working from a critical and clinical lens is imperative as we do the work to decolonize oppressive systems. The ability to identify anti-black racism, marginalization and oppression outside of one’s social location helps to understand the lived experiences of those who face discrimination. Black children and youth tend to be overlooked when we think about mental health challenges, such as PTSD, anxiety and depression. They are often seen as overly aggressive and criminalized. They are more likely to experience what is called, “school to prison pipeline” in comparison to their white counterparts and other youth of colour. Black children and youth experience lowered expectations from their peers, teachers, media, and society. They face harsher punishment from law enforcement and represent a high population in the youth criminal justice system.

This training will identify systemic barriers black children and youth experience within systems such as mental health care, education, employment, and the youth justice system. Participants will gain knowledge and understanding of how to apply a socioecological approach when working with children and youth. In addition, participants will understand the importance of counterstorying and counterviewing as a tool to decolonize systemic barriers. Not only do black children and youth experience stigma and shame surrounding mental health challenges within their own community, but they also experience the same stigma and shame from society due to racism and discrimination. Participants will be challenged to no longer see themselves outside of racism, but as active participants who can make changes by standing in solidarity of decolonization. Participants should be prepared to participate in interactive exercises and reflection.

Learning objectives:

  • Learn how to apply a critical clinical lens by incorporating counterstorying and counterviewing 
  • Participants will identify systemic barriers faced by black children and youth and practice from a lens of decolonization 
  • Participants will be able to identify oppressive systems (White Supremacy, racial discrimination, poverty) and practice from a lens of decolonization 
  • Participants will identify their own social location and implicit biases 
  • Participants will identify the role of the family and the need for community engagement