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Breaking Barriers in Mental Health Support

In January, Africa Centre and The Alberta Black Therapists Network launched their new counselling program! This program not only provides free counselling services, but is also part of breaking down barriers and stigma that still surround accessing mental health supports.

We talked to Noreen Sibanda, Executive Director of The Alberta Black Therapists Network, about this new program and its impact on the community.

Tell us about the new counselling program in collaboration with The Africa Centre.

The clinic is funded by the United Way and a collaboration between Africa Centre and The Alberta Black Therapists Network (ABTN). We are proud to offer free counselling support to the African descent community through licensed therapists who have a cultural understanding and offer trauma and healing centered approaches. Our services provide formal, 50-minute, one-to-one counselling sessions in the form of short-term intervention, utilizing solution-focused therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. The services are available over a secure video platform and can be accessed as an individual, group, or couple. We also had secured a donation from Ikea to furnish an office space that we look forward to utilizing when restrictions are lifted.

Why is now an important time for this resource to be available?

We have seen a rise in the need for mental health resources because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now more than ever people need professional support. Unfortunately, despite this desperate need, the barriers to accessing support (cost, long waiting times, stigma), still exist. This service allows people who are struggling with their mental health to connect and not have to worry about costs, as most people cannot afford to access therapeutic support. It allows our community to access services from the organizations that they already know, at no cost and from individuals that share similar lived experiences.

What is something you wish the community knew about youth mental health?

I believe mental health needs to be a part of our overall wellness. Supports services need to include healing, otherwise we are merely treating the symptoms which leads to an overuse of services.

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