Rooted in Africa and Ireland Network (RIAI) will be launching their “Black Mental Health Matter” support corner, which aspires to provide inclusive mental health supports and aims at ending stigma within the Black community, on Saturday the 15th of May at 3pm.

RIAI’s founders, Joy-Tendai Kangere and Diane Ihirwe stated: “Black mental health has always mattered but it has not always gotten the attention it deserves. It is up to us to advocate for our community for better supports around mental health based on real life experiences and the difficulties surrounding accessing services and overcoming the stigma that is held in our community.

“Living with systemic racism and social injustice is nothing new for people of African Descent living in Ireland. It is the primary factor that impacts Black mental wellness. In our darkest moments, some of us have been able to still find support in places like churches, despite the collective trauma of racism experienced on a daily basis. Additionally, family gatherings and community have been one of our strongest coping strategies for battling mental stress, and historically, one of the only things we ever really did have. Unfortunately, for some in our community, these supports are not available, leaving them more isolated. Our attitude has been even if we are going through it, we are able to get through it better together”.

“Now, having lived a year through a pandemic, the absence of that critical aspect of life has

caused an even heavier burden on our mental health. Not only is the Black community at higher risk of more severe illnesses from COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions, but systemic racial barriers and disparities within healthcare, education, employment, and housing make exposure to the virus even more likely”.


“The past year has been exhausting to say the very least. In the midst of COVID-19, we watched the rest of the world “wake up” to racism as viral videos of Black lives being murdered circulated on all forms of media. Peaceful protests were attacked with police brutality while our anger and pain were criticised and invalidated. The intersection of these traumatic experiences have made Black people (those who identify or are identified as Black within society) even more susceptible to anxiety and depression, with a doubling in suicide rates. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of Black people who need mental health services receive them”.


Kangere and Ihirwe outlined the reasons why so few receive mental health services: 1) stigma associated with mental health, 2) distrust of the health care system, 3) lack of providers from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds, 4) lack of culturally competent providers, 5) long waiting list, 6) negative therapy experiences.


The RIAI network plans to hold online sessions and sign-posting supporters to Black therapists in Ireland and other jurisdictions. There will be gatherings and peer support, music & art sessions, chat & laughter sessions, promoting rest and intentional rest, spiritual/religious connections and boundaries will be set.


“We need to recognize how far we have come and remember where we are headed. There is still a lot of work to be done in to celebrate being rooted in Africa and united in Ireland. In the meantime, we will support with our community in order to continue taking care of ourselves and each other”, Kangere and Ihirwe concluded.

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Diane: diane.ihirwe@r