Project Spotlight: Wanasah – Mental Health Services for Black Youth

The Wanasah Trauma-Responsive Community Initiative

Developing Black-centric, trauma-responsive community support services to support the mental health needs of Black youth and their families in Toronto’s Regent Park community.


Black youth (12-25) and their families in Regent Park, Toronto



  • Overcome stigma within the community in seeking mental health support.
  • Improve access to effective and holistic mental health services for Black youth and their families.
  • Improve mental health of youth, families, service providers and the community.


Community-driven participatory approach to developing and addressing culturally-safe, equity-focused mental health services and supports.


  • Youth: Free individual therapy, case management, peer support, support groups.
  • Families: Caregiver counselling, mental health navigation, mother’s support group
  • Community: Monthly community healing events
  • Service providers: Information sessions, workshops for organizations that serve Black youth; relationship building in the community.



  • Community
  • Family
  • Clinical

Implementation sites

  • Regent Park, Toronto


  • Black youth are directly and indirectly affected by anti-Black racism, inter-generational trauma, poverty, and the rise in gun violence in their communities.
  • These issues can lead to an increase in mental health and addiction needs.
  • Shortage of free mental health services, provider level discrimination and a lack of culturally safe care as well as barriers such as stigma all contribute to a lack of access to effective, culturally safe care.

“When it comes to Black mental health, there’s just not a lot of resources or services available. Typically, there’s policies and procedures in place that make it hard for Black young folks and their caregivers to access mental health services.”


In the words of the project team members

“We wanted to create a grassroots organization to address mental health, racial trauma and intergenerational trauma from a Black centric lens which includes therapy and collective wellness initiatives for caregivers, their chosen families, and key members and leaders in the community to make sure trauma-informed practices trickle down to everyone.”

Key protective factors

  • Cultural connectedness and identity
  • Meaning and purpose
  • Supportive relationships in the community
  • Involvement in community and group activities
  • Access to health and support services
  • Physical safety and security

Key approaches

  • Culturally safe
  • Equity-focused