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Welcome to Hope Leads!

We are excited and grateful to share with you how friendship, community care and hope led us to building Hope Leads Mental Health Care. After five years of honing our work and almost a year of planning, daily phone calls and texts, sharing laughter and good food, working weekends, and at one point working in different time zones, here we are! We are humbled to share our story with you.

How it all started.

In 2016, we met in graduate school for social work, and we instantly bonded over the shared realities of being racialized students in a predominantly white graduate program. After doing a headcount, we believe that less than 30 students out of a cohort over 100 were visible minorities. During this time, the school’s engagement with students of colour was limited to 2 or 3 events for the entire term.

As students, we often experienced being either the “one” or one of less than 5 people of colour in the classroom. At times this felt isolating, but we knew that this was the outcome of various forms of oppression – barriers to accessing education, systemic racism, and a lack of access to sustainable financial resources. In Canada, the history of the social worker profession includes violence against Indigenous communities and racism, and as learners, we knew that it was essential to be change makers and shift the profession towards justice and cultural humility.

These realities motivated us to create our own informal group of racialized students and allies with shared values and a commitment to diversifying the social work field in any way we can. This also became a community of support that got us through graduate school, and continues to be a source of motivation, inspiration, and strength.

Top view of people of colour around a table, coffee in hand

On a personal level, we bonded over our shared struggles and commitment to change. We often collaborated with our peers to create spaces where we could have open conversations and support each other. We also committed to working hard, participating in professional development to improve skills, research initiatives, and networking opportunities to ensure that we could be effective social workers in the community.

Joelle and Michael on their graduation day, bright smiles, clear blue skies

Form vision to action…

Post-graduate level education, we continued our commitment to supporting racialized and marginalized communities in Toronto. We both spent years providing mental health support to these communities in different healthcare settings: community mental health, primary care, and hospitals.

In these spaces, we have witnessed the everyday struggles of marginalized individuals. We have engaged with mental health care through relationship building and collaboration – both with clients and in multi-disciplinary teams. In these spaces we have galvanized organizations into seeing the value of connectedness, and how essential it is to providing mental health care.

At Hope Leads, we want to honor your stories that we have the privilege of carrying with you.

The relationships we have built in our journey and the stories we have had the honour of helping our clients carry have informed the three pillars of our psychotherapy practice.

Joelle and Michael, together with a laptop outside

These stories informed our pillars for our psychotherapy practice.

Building Meaningful Connections” reflects how the relationship we have with community members is necessary for growth, safety, developing trust, and authenticity.

We adopted “Embracing Discomfort” because, while we are often taught that discomfort is “bad” and should be “feared”, it often communicates so many things we need to acknowledge, such as the need for change and how we are affected by oppression. In therapy, we can work towards finding your voice and power within the discomfort.

Lastly, “Fostering Community Care” fills us with purpose and joy as Black and Asian mental health care providers. Way too often, we are told to embark on journeys alone and without support, which can feel isolating. From healing circles to workshops, opportunities to gather can make us feel less alone and let us see ourselves in someone else’s story.

The hope leads logo icon, shown in different stages representing the three pillars

Thank you for reading!

Join us as we foster a community practice of care that is holistic, empowering, kind, and hopeful. Follow us on our social media @hopeleadsmentalhealthcare.

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