Mental Health and Well-Being Snapshot: May 2022
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Equity for Well-being
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Why anti-racist efforts are important

Multiculturalism and diversity are often seen as hallmarks of Canadian society. But this notion of the cultural mosaic can mask the reality that racism and discrimination still occurs within Canada on an individual and systemic level, and risks overlooking the colonial history of this country and the damage that history still causes today.

A recent survey of youth across Canada found that over half of Canadian youth had witnessed acts of racism at school. In BC, 14% of youth surveyed in the most recent McCreary Centre survey said they had experienced racial discrimination within the last year. On a more local level, a Victoria Foundation survey from 2020 found that over 70% of respondents  in Victoria who identified as Indigenous, Black, or a Person of Colour (IBPOC) experienced racism on a regular basis over the five years preceding the survey.

These numbers are a reminder that racism exists in our schools and communities, and demands continued attention to affect positive change. And anti-racism efforts mean more than just shining a light on what is not working, but also taking active steps to combat racism on the individual and systemic levels, and proactively trying to build inclusive and equitable spaces.
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Racism and well-being

Combatting racism is important for so many reasons. One such important reason is the detrimental impact that experiences of racism have on well-being. The graph above highlights that feelings of stress and despair almost doubled in prevalence when young people had experienced a racist incident in the past month.

Other findings from the same report by the McCreary Centre Society indicated that students who had been discriminated against in the past year were less likely to rate their mental health as good or excellent, feel happy most or all the time in the past month, feel their life was going well, or usually feel good about themselves.

Are you "non" or "anti"?

In this short video, author Marlon James asks that question about our stance on racism. James presents "non-racism" as disengagement from the racist actions or words of others, and contrasts that with "anti-racism" which means engaging with the world around us to affect change with an attitude of "what hurts one of us, hurts all of us".

Reconciliation as Anti-Racism
Anti-racism work in Canada necessarily involves understanding the impacts of colonization on Indigenous people, and actively working towards Reconciliation. Jo Chrona is an educational consultant, speaker and author who has written about reconciliation and education. Chrona sees Reconciliation as “the process of the work of every Canadian, individually, and collectively, personally and professionally, to understand the truths of Canada’s collective past, how these truths affect our lives today, how we can address the legacies of the past, and create changes to the present to move forward.” Chrona describes this process as an ongoing journey, and one that education systems must play a major role in facilitating.

To support that journey, Chrona outlines some important questions to ask ourselves, such as: 

-What are the stories you are telling about how this country came to be?
-How well do you know the Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

As well as some helpful action steps we can take:

-Examine the education resources available from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation    
-Support the development of welcoming spaces in schools for Indigenous families.
-Ensure local Indigenous peoples and cultures are reflected in schools and school district physical spaces.

And Chrona also links to some helpful resources to learn more, such as the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action. Read more questions and action steps at the link below.

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Anti-racist actions in the Canadian context

Jo Chrona also presents the work of becoming anti-racist as a continual journey, with a goal of moving beyond the "fear zone" of denying or avoiding; into the learning zone of acknowledgement, understanding, and seeking out education; and then into the growth zone of tangible actions that confront racist attitudes or actions, make space for BIPOC people, and move reconciliation forward in personal and professional contexts. Where would you place yourself on the diagram above? How might you move toward the growth zone?

The power of art and culture

Cross-cultural exchange can be a powerful tool to celebrate creativity and cultural connection, and move toward healing. Spotlighting Indigenous artists and facilitating a platform for this exchange is what the Royal BC Museum has tried to do with their Living Cultures program. Their site has videos exploring the work and process of local Indigenous artists, as well as a facilitator's guide for other organizations that might want to pursue similar projects.

The Moosehide Campaign

Indigenous women and girls are five times more likely to experience violence than other populations in Canada. That harsh reality is in part what the Moosehide campaign is aiming to shine a light on, and engage men and boys in the work of addressing all domestic and gender-based violence. Getting involved in campaigns such as the Moosehide campaign is one of the ways that people can step into the "growth zone" of advocacy for change. Schools and community organizations will be holding events on May 12th to acknowledge the day and build awareness around this issue. Indigenous women and girls are five times more likely to experience violence than any other population in Canada and this violence tends to result in more serious harm.
Conversations at Home

Talking to children about racism

Talking to children about racism can be difficult. It can be hard to find age-appropriate ways to convey a challenging topic, and as parents we can feel poorly equipped to discuss such a complex topic. However, evidence suggests having conversations about racism and discrimination early is important.

The linked article from UNICEF highlights the importance of modelling actions that challenge racism, include others, and demonstrate kindness to all. The article also points out that “ignoring or avoiding the topic isn‘t protecting children, it‘s leaving them exposed to bias that exists wherever we live. Children who encounter racism, can be left feeling lost while trying to understand why they are being treated a certain way, which in turn can impact their long-term development and well-being.” 

Click the link on the left to read more about age-appropriate ways to discuss racism.

More resources to support home conversations

Talking to young children about race and racism - This PBS hub has many tips and resources for talking to children about racism - including discussion guides, advice about media, and conversation starters (note, this is an American resource).

3 Heart-mind practices for anti-racism - this resource includes things to watch, listen, read, and do together at home that can spark learning and discussion about racism in ways that are appropriate for your child's age.
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How books can shape our worldview

We've talked about books many times in past snapshots. Their influence is incredibly powerful in shaping worldviews of our young people. Which is why representation of diversity is so crucial in the books we read with our children. The graphic above shows approximate representation levels from an American study in 2018. In that same study animals were represented in greater numbers in books than all of these above groups combined. 

Some dangers of under-representation in books is that the absence of diversity may leave some children with very narrow worldviews and biases toward people or cultures they haven't seen represented, and BIPOC or other under-represented groups may find it harder to engage with the book, so will not have as rich of a learning experience or may have a limited view of what's possible for themselves based on what they see (or don't see) in books.

The beautiful thing about books though, is that we have choices about which book we pick up or give to our children. Here are a couple of guides that can help with selecting books for younger readers:

9 Children's Books by Indigenous Authors - A list of titles curated by Métis writer Cherie Dimaline.

Parents for Diversity: Diversity Library - filter by category, theme, and age range to find the right book for your child!
Community and Online resources

Inter-Cultural Association

The Inter-Cultural Association offers a range of services to support immigrants and refugees, and foster inclusive and welcoming spaces in the Victoria area. From their website: 

ICA began in the 1970s as a response to racism in our community and today, we continue that important work by offering wide ranging services including anti-racism programming, youth engagement, mentorship and language instruction. Our staff and volunteers offer employment, education, healthcare and housing, and transportation assistance. ICA‘s arts program helps nurture minds and souls, creating cross-cultural learning.

Click the link for some suggested resources, as well as information about their bystander intervention training and other tools for equity. 

Resilience BC

The Resilience BC hub is intended to coordinate efforts to address racism across the province. It offers learning and support resources as well as inspirational stories about the ways that various communities and individuals in BC have taken anti-racist actions.

First People's Map of BC

First Nations are sometimes mistakenly categorized as a homogenous whole, but it is important to understand the diversity that exists between and within First Nations. The First People's Map of BC uses an interactive map to display this diversity visually, by mapping out languages, Nations, and showcasing art and heritage sites from First Nations all across British Columbia. 

SD63's Mental Wellness Hub updated every month

This site compiles both local and online mental health and wellness resources for families and educators, and is updated monthly with new resources.
SD63's Mental Wellness Hub