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Whitby, Ont., therapist says more mental health resources needed for people of colour in Durham|BCI

© Global NewsClinical social worker Valerie Morrison chats with her client Keisha Athanas. Morrison says there needs to be a centralized platform for people of colour to access mental health resources.

The ongoing fight for racial equality is continuing to have an impact internationally.

In Durham Region, that includes a push for more mental health resources for people of colour.

When Keisha Athanas first began looking for a therapist, she didn't know how to go about finding someone of a similar cultural background.

"It was just kind of happenstance that I was able to get a Black woman as my therapist," she said.

Athanas has been seeing her therapist, Valerie Morrison, for about a year now in Whitby, Ont.

With the recent news out of the U.S. surrounding the death of George Floyd, she says speaking to someone that understands the experiences of the Black community is comforting.

"The reason why I felt an inner sigh of relief is because there was that feeling of a shared experience as a Black person," Athanas said.

"I didn't feel like I had to explain certain things that I may have to explain with someone who wasn't a Black woman or person as my therapist."

Morrison has been a clinical social worker for more than a decade. With 40 per cent of her clients being people of colour, she feels there is a growing need for mental health resources specifically catered towards the Black community.

"I think a lot of clients do seek out counselling from therapists of colour," she said.

Morrison says many clients have trouble finding therapists of a similar cultural background due to a lack of local resources in the region.

"There's no directory, there's no specific listings of black therapists in Durham Region," Morrison said.

"There's no centralized way for people of colour to access mental health therapy."

It's not just finding a Black therapist that's proven to be difficult. Being able to afford these services in the first place has been a challenge for many. Members of the Black community have set up a crowd-funding campaign to assist with this.

The GoFundMe, which was created by Healing Collective, has raised nearly $200,000 as of Wednesday for virtual mental health services for Black clients across Ontario.

As for Durham, staff say they're working to make sure resources for black residents are more accessible.

"They're there," said Durham regional chair John Henry.

"We just need to maybe put them on a central page, so that's something we can work towards as a project."

Global News

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