Last Updated on November 1, 2016
Canada could face a mental health time bomb if it fails to adapt its services to the needs of the multicultural range of immigrants in welcomes into the country, a report says.
While immigrants generally arrive with positive mental health, boosted by the feeling of making a new start, that can deteriorate quickly over time, according to the study by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Often immigrants arrive from countries where mental health problems have a major stigma surrounding them, making it unlikely they will seek assistance.
There are also cases of immigrants being scared they will be sent home if they report mental health problems, the report, titled “The Case for Diversity”, says.
Simple cultural and language barriers can also be to blame as to why immigrants arrive with better mental health than Canadians, but lose that advantage so quickly.
The situation can be worse for refugees, who have often left their home under duress, or may have faced life in a camp for an extended period before coming to Canada.
However, in the case of the more than 30,000 Syrians welcome to Canada since October 2015, the report says a good job is being done in providing them with support.
The commission’s report calls for the implementation of a solid strategy to tackle the problem at source, so that it is not allowed to become a major issue down the line.
Treating problems as soon as they emerge is much more likely to see them resolved quickly and not develop into issues that need extensive care in future.
Improving access to services and tailoring those services to new immigrants is the answer, the report says.
The direct impact of a failure to tackle the problem would be the cost of future treatment, while secondary effects include loss of productivity and pressure on the criminal justice system.
The recommendations include spending money on culturally-specific treatments delivered in the language of new immigrants that draw on their traumatic experiences.
It says that overarching services aimed at helping a range of cultures do not work as well.
Key worries of new immigrants include finding a job, securing housing and integrating into society. If these things do not happen on a timely basis, that can trigger mental health issues.
The report chimes with another piece of research released in July 2016, saying the health of new immigrants is being put at risk because of difficulties finding a regular doctor in Canada.
‘Immigrant Status and Having a Regular Medical Doctor Among Canadian Adults’ agrees with the Mental Health Commission paper by saying that although the health of new immigrants is generally better than established Canadians, the advantage deteriorates over time.
It suggests that one reason for this is significantly fewer people who have been here for less than 10 years have a regular doctor.
The study, produced by Michele Degelman of the University of Regina, says a regular doctor plays a crucial role in staying healthy through preventative care and early treatment of diseases.
It calls for more help to be given to newcomers specifically with finding a family physician.
Just 55 per cent of new-immigrant men have a doctor, compared to 78 per cent of Canadian-born and 84 per cent of established immigrants (those who have been here 10 years or more).
For women, 68 per cent of new immigrants have a doctor, compared to 91 per cent of established immigrants and 88 per cent of non-immigrants.
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