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Supporting Refugee Mental Health

Jul 20

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHC) found that immigrants generally arrive with better mental health than the Canadian-born population, a phenomenon referred to as the “healthy immigrant effect.”
Refugees and migrants escaping war-torn countries are greatly afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or other mood disorders. Both refugees and immigrants face language and access barriers to mental health services. Failure to receive early treatment leads to more expensive emergency department visits and/or hospital admissions. Additionally, the quality of life greatly deteriorates the longer individuals don’t receive treatment.

Socioeconomic factors including an individual’s ability to land a job, build social networks, and find housing are key factors in mental health. Early intervention for identifying mental health illnesses and developing self-management strategies are necessary to support new immigrants and refugees in Canada. Yet, despite evidence supporting early intervention, only 6.3 per cent of refugees access treatment, compared to 9.6 per cent of immigrants and 12.5 per cent of non-immigrant Canadians.

The report provided by the MHCC in 2016 called for improved collection and evaluation of data on ethnic background, utilizing culturally adaptive programs to produce better outcomes, and addressing the social determinants is paramount to an effective strategy.

Additionally, methods to leverage technology and flexible mental health programs that empower individuals to learn more about mental health can further address issues of stigma and access in immigrant and refugee populations. Advanced investment in mental health will help to support Canadian efforts to assist refugees and immigrants. 

Image Credit: Jeremy Eaton/CBC

Full Article Link: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/immigrants-refugees-canada-mental-health-1.3808089

Kathleen Qu, M.Sc

Kathleen Qu is the Product Manager of FeelingBetterNow. She has a background in global health and policy research. She is an advocate in breaking down barriers for mental health access.