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Anxiety and Stigma in Black Canadians

While one in five people in Canada will experience mental illness or addiction in their lifetime, 67 percent of them will suffer alone, without asking for help. The young population is particularly vulnerable to mental illness, with suicide being the second leading cause of death among young Canadians 15 to 24 years old. Surveys show that 34 percent of Ontario high-school students experience moderate to serious symptoms of anxiety or depression. Statistics also show that 16 percent of women in Canada experience anxiety disorders each year.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety can be described as a generalized and overwhelming feeling of discomfort or uneasiness. While fear and worry are completely normal responses to perceived danger, feelings involved in anxiety are quite different.

Anxiety involves an emotional and physical response to assumed dangers. In other words, the main feature of anxiety is the absence of a real reason for a constant feeling of uneasiness. Anxiety may affect one’s emotions, thinking, and behavior and severely impair a person’s social and professional life. At the same time, anxiety disorder often manifests in real physical symptoms.

The anxiety symptoms are typically chronic and are likely to get progressively worse without treatment. However, with the help of psychotherapy and medication, most anxiety orders can successfully be tackled.

Some of the most common anxiety symptoms include:

  • Excessive worry and fear
  • Feeling a loss of control
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling irritated and/or agitated
  • Sleep problems
  • A generalized fear of approaching trouble
  • Attention difficulties
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Hyperventilation, shortness of breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Stomachaches
  • Legs and arms numbness

The most common forms of anxiety are:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Phobias

Causes of Anxiety in Black People in Toronto

While there is no simple answer to this question, research shows that factors such as genetics, environmental factors (the ongoing stress of day-to-day life), changes in the brain, and other medical conditions can trigger anxiety. What is more, an anxiety disorder may also stem from one’s negative and dysfunctional thinking patterns.

Anxiety in the African American Community: The Stigma and Silent Struggle in Toronto

People who belong to minority groups are often hit with bias, stigma, bigotry, and day-to-day microaggressions.

African Americans, like other minorities, often experience unfavorable mental health outcomes caused by stigma. Due to the mental illness-related stigma, black people in Canada may have difficulties to reach academic goals, find work and decent housing, be socially involved, and keep up positive relationships, specifically if they are women.

Moreover, African Canadian often experience a double stigma, meaning that those who already suffer from mental illness also experience prejudices and discrimination.

Research shows that less than one-half of people with mental illness receive treatment. A lack of understanding of mental illness, negative attitudes towards the health care system, and the stigma prevent those affected from seeking professional mental health help. Instead of seeking help, many black individuals with anxiety and depression choose to conceal their struggles and resort to self-medication and isolation from the community instead.

Black individuals in Toronto are also more likely to experience unemployment and qualify as low-income. According to the Canadian Mental Health Organization (CMHA), people who live in poverty are predisposed to mental illness.

Anxiety Treatment for Black Individuals in Toronto

The most effective treatments for anxiety include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Therapy. However, some self-help strategies such as relaxation techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, positive affirmations, exercise, and setting clear boundaries are helpful in handling anxiety.

If you identify as African, black or from Caribbean heritage and live in Toronto and currently struggling with anxiety, there is help. Black mental health Canada offers culturally responsive mental health services unique targeted to your needs. Don’t struggle in silence anymore. For more information contact us 289-432-1377 or email us