Toronto Life interviews FIFSW alumna & social worker Donna Alexander on how racism affects mental healthCategories: Alumni in the News
FIFSW Alumna Donna Alexander (MSW 2005) spoke to Toronto Life about the cumulative psychological effects of racism, the need for culturally specific counselling for Black people, and why she believes police should not be first responders to mental health crises.
“Racial trauma, or the cumulative effect of racism on mental health, is incredibly difficult to recover from because the trauma is still ongoing. Our children and our adults are now realizing that the colour of our skin can be enough to elicit violence. We don’t have to do anything wrong. We could be doing everything right. And yet we know with complete clarity that this is something that we are going to have to face for the rest of our lives, because it’s not like we can take off this clothing of black skin and operate in the world without it. So we develop a sense of hyper-vigilance. We have to always be on guard because wherever we are, whatever board room, whatever space we occupy, something can happen again to remind you. Right now I’m getting a lot of calls from Black staff working in mental health and social work—people who are providing support to their clients, but dealing with similar struggles. In between calls or clients, they’re bursting into tears, they’re not sleeping at night. These triggers affect not just our clients, but us too, even as we’re doing the work.”
Photo by Erin Leydon via Toronto Life