Mental illness does not discriminate the people it effects, so why do we see racial disparities in the mental health system? Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) individuals are less likely to have access to mental health services, less likely to receive the care needed, and more likely to receive poor quality of care, due to historical and systemic issues of racism (Perzichilli, 2020). Research has found that 17% of Black people and 23% of Indigenous North Americans live with mental illness. People who identify as belonging to two or more races are most likely to report any mental illness than any other racial or ethnic group, at around a 25% instance in this group.

B.A.C.K. (Belonging, Authenticity, Community of Care, Knowledge) is a mental health program that was developed by the SOCC (Students of Colour Collective), the Office of Student Life, and UVic Pride. The aim of this initiative is to provide a safe space for BIPOC students looking for mental health and peer support. This program also supports the development of peer support networks and connections alongside the growth of sustainable strategies and approaches that center around well-being and self-care. This project was created in response to the recognition of the barriers and stigma that surround mental health for BIPOC folks. The team that created the program wanted to address the challenges that existed at UVic in regard to BIPOC peoples accessing mental health support.

The program is open to all UVic students who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or a Person of Colour. Students may pick one of the four cohorts to best suit their identity and needs. Two of the groups are identity-based (BIPOC students with disabilities and 2SQTBIPOC students) and two groups are approach- based (expressive arts therapy and tarot and somatic approach). Each of the cohorts are a small group and are led by a skilled BIPOC facilitator. You can learn more about the facilitators and their groups here. The sessions take place on Zoom once a month, with all materials and supplies provided for the students involved.

If you want to join the B.A.C.K. program you can do so via this link where you can find the link to the registration form. You will use your UVic email address to access the registration form on the Engage platform. After answering a few questions, you will receive a confirmation email with more information and next steps. Sessions will be running this semester through to April 2022.

There are also other group counselling sessions available at UVic through the Student Wellness Centre, with cohorts focusing on topics including ADHD, gaining social confidence, and an LGBTQIA+ support group. More information can be found on these here.

Let’s keep talking about mental health together <3

The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the University of Victoria. I monitor posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the University of Victoria Guidelines on Blogging.