The national mental health crisis line is developing an initiative to address anti-Black racism and determine how to best support Black youth who call in due to distress from racism and discrimination.
The initiative, named RiseUp, is funded with the help of Tangerine Bank’s investment platform, Project Forward. The money will be used to conduct an internal analysis of Kids Help Phone to evaluate everything from hiring practices that could see more Black counsellors join the crisis line, to how Black youth calling in for support are helped. It also includes the development of new training on anti-Black racism for all Kids Help Phone staff, coming in October.
A new manager has been hired to oversee this development, said Deanna Dunham, the director of the Indigenous Initiatives and Equity Programs at Kids Help Phone, which have been used as a model for the crisis line’s Black youth initiative. A permanent advisory council of Black youth leaders will also be created to support RiseUp, Dunham said.
“We’ve had a lot of success with our Indigenous youth strategy, and we’re seeing the impact we can have on marginalized communities and youth who need our support,” Dunham said.
The goal, Dunham added, is to best support an increasing number of Black youth contacting Kids Help Phone after experiencing distress from racism and discrimination.
Last May and June, during the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Kids Help Phone received double the number of usual calls related to racism, Dunham said. Racism is the second-leading cause of distress among youth calling, behind youth who are fearing abuse from someone in the home.
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