As more and more voices ring out in protest over the death of George Floyd, the impact is also being felt across the Durham region.
Demonstrations and riots erupted across the United States after Floyd, a Black man, died of asphyxiation while being arrested in Minneapolis May 25. The arresting officer, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, has since been fired and charged with second-degree murder.
Residents in the Durham community say the man’s death is just another example of the injustices that still exist in the states, as well as in Canada.
“This is not new to us,” said Pickering resident Camille Elvin.
“This is something that we deal with every day. We have to go about our daily lives, but at the same time at the back of our head, our Blackness always exists because society forces that on us.”
On top of grappling with her own mental health, Elvin says she has to constantly think about how she will protect her young children — something she says is beyond difficult.
“It’s a very fine line to walk in terms of trying to engage with the issue, trying to figure out your mental health, but understanding that as a parent, my first priority is them and ensuring that their mental health remains stable.”
To help with these complex issues, families like Elvin’s have turned to the ‘Together We Are’ program, part of the Side by Side Supervised Access Services and the John Howard Society of Durham Region.
“The program really addresses the challenges that Black families face daily,” said principal owner Debbie Miles-Senior.
‘Together We Are’ offers various cultural and advocacy-based workshops for parents and children ages 6 to 11. Next week, staff are holding virtual sessions for parents to have a healthy discussion with their children on the current events happening in the U.S.
Amid the American news, Debbie-Miles Senior says she expects to see an increase in the number of families using the ‘Together We Are’ program.
She wants parents and children in the region to know, “you have your community who is here to support you.”
While Black communities are currently at the forefront, people from other racial groups are also feeling unsettled.
Mental health experts recommend taking a break from social media.
“Social media is causing an increase in mental health incidents, we know that,” said Wendy Stanyon with Ontario Tech University’s faculty of health sciences.
“It’s just another day of verbal exchange, but it doesn’t indicate that you’re actually going to follow through with any action.”
Instead, Stanyon advises people to get informed through books, videos and community dialogue.