St. James Town is a high-density neighborhood, often affectionately referred to as ‘A World Within a Block’ because of its long history of welcoming people from around the world. Sixty-five percent of people are newcomers or immigrants and it has a higher percentage of people of Indigenous origin than the rest of Toronto. Despite this richness in diversity, St. James Town residents face challenges related to poverty and unemployment and a prevalence of mental health issues and addictions.
Moonim says, “the pandemic has widened many of these gaps and losses. We all have a role to play in addressing these inequalities and disparities of care with practical, local solutions in the community.”
Mendoza-Price notes, “Mental health challenges in St. James Town are often caused or accelerated by systems and structures that marginalize and oppress residents of the community. A therapist alone cannot fix the feeling of anxiety when someone is behind on rent or is living in poor conditions. To fix the mental health crisis in St. James Town (and across Toronto), we must look at government policy and what needs to be changed in housing, healthcare, policing, and economic justice and develop community led alternatives, rather than treating mental health as an individual relationship between patient and therapist/social worker.”
Throughout the pandemic, The Corner in St. James Town (www.stjamestown.org) has remained open for service, providing telephone or in person counselling on a one-to-one basis. It also facilitates access to practical support and services related to immigration, unemployment, housing, primary care and recycling. Food support is offered through volunteers and community ambassadors who bring groceries to those who cannot leave their apartments. This also provides an opportunity to check in with those who are isolated or struggling with mental health concerns and connects them with needed supports.
No one should have to face mental health struggles alone. The Corner is there to help. If you or someone you know needs help with their mental health, contact The Corner at 416-964-6657.
For a great video about how community workers are bringing mental health support to St. James Town, watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkpZyMn7vvQ.