Frederick: Pandemic plan should focus on inequities

A "worker for youth," Stachen Frederick is executive director of the youth charity Frontlines, a professor, grant-writing coach, trainer, and a non-profit consultant.

We reached out to members of our Toronto advisory council asking them to write about issues of importance during this federal election. This is one of those columns.

Recent discussions in my inner circles centre on our concern for the fate of the Generation Z and Generation Alpha. As an educator in one aspect of my life, I see an increased dependence of young people on adults; young people needing a play-by-play script of how to do everything in life. There is a sense of depression, worry and lack of initiative in figuring things out in many young people. Mental health issues are on the rise for our youth. For example, suicide rates among young people in Generation Z are higher than in other generations.

Social media has been attributed to this, in which young people are in constant comparison with others, and there is also a sense of entitlement with a need for instant gratification.

But I turn to the compounding troubles for young Black people. What if your life circumstances of being a member of an oppressed community prevented you access to the things that you wanted? What if you did not have the life of privilege that would allow your parents to give you the things that you saw on social media? What if you are living in a community that is experiencing violence from police or others in the community but then you see these same images on social media all the time? What if your community had some of the highest rates of COVID-19 during the pandemic, and you were fearful to breathe in air from your apartment building? What if you felt isolated because there is no trip to go away from your apartment building?

These “what-if’s” are the “what is” for the many young people that I serve as the executive director at Weston Frontlines Centre, best known as Frontlines, a youth charity in the west end of Toronto. Even before the pandemic, our riding was one of the poorest ridings across Ontario, not just in Toronto. Weston had the second highest cases of COVID-19 at the start of pandemic. Similar rates exist in surrounding communities.

Our Black youth have been hit hard blows in 2020 and 2021; from COVID-19 to images of police brutality with George Floyd. A study by Kids Help Phone reported that there has been increased calls from Black users, with racism being a key contributor to impacting our Black youth’s mental health. Racism is a social determinant of health.

In the recovery plan for our community, it is imperative that our leaders prioritize these communities by addressing issues of inequality/racism. Weston Frontlines Centre will continue doing the work for our young people, giving them tools to be resilient.

In a recent media opportunity, a young teen spoke about how his experience at Frontlines gave him tools to communicate and try out new things. Frontlines and organizations that do similar work need the support of our government. I hope to hear more on various platforms of what is being done for our young people. The Generation Z and Alpha are counting on them.

Former Ottawa resident, Stachen Frederick is executive director of the youth charity Frontlines, a professor, grant-writing coach, trainer, and a non-profit consultant.

Source: Toronto Star

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