Skip to content

Mental Health and Refugee Communities

Studies show immigrants and refugees have less access to mental health services than non-immigrants. Reports by the Canadian Government also found newcomers are less likely to tell of their mental health struggles.

In the last decade, refugees have become a major point of discussion for governments around the world. Sparked by conflicts and wars, the refugee question has manifested itself on the world stage more than ever before. According to federal government statistics, 50,385 refugee claims were made in 2017, 55,040 in 2018, 2019 saw the largest number of claimants at 64,040. However, the 2020 number is greatly less than the previous years, being only 23,845. The current number of claimants for 2021 stands at 8,250. The COVID-19 pandemic can explain the severe drop in claimants.   In 2019 Canada accepted around 28,000 refugees, that number is also the average for 2017 and 2018. 

Upon settling in Canada, refugees find themselves lacking necessary mental health services. Those who do have access to such services often do not use them due to the stigma associated with mental health. Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression are the most commonly reported cases. A report from June of this year by Statistics Canada found that “refugees may face barriers to accessing and using outpatient mental health services from a physician.” Refugees are more likely to use emergency room services for mental-health-related issues than non-refugees. This means that essential services required for refugees are simply missing. 

Additionally, mental health services may not be culturally acceptable for specific communities. Language barriers also play a role in hesitancy. In the same report, only about five per cent of refugees aged 25 to 39 admitted to taking part in mental health consultations. 

The Manitoba Government invested more than $2.1 million last year for mental health services for refugees. The money aims to increase access to mental health treatment, fighting PTSD in those suffering from it, counselling and psychological care. The government hopes that “improved support for newcomers with severe trauma will contribute to positive health and social outcomes. That includes reduced child welfare involvement, readiness for employment, reduced justice involvement and reduced gang-related activity.” 

In June, the federal government announced an investment of $9,275,000 to support the currently existing mental health facilities. The money will also support facilities that provide help to Indigenous communities, LGBTQ+ and newcomers communities. The investment is part of a $50 million project in support of mental health centres. Recently another announcement was made on Aug. 12 by the federal government to invest an additional $100 million over three years to expand newcomer services, including better access to distress centres. 

The intended result of the actions taken by both the provincial and federal governments is to integrate newcomers into Canadian society fully so they feel at home. Taking the necessary steps in ensuring good mental health care access is one of the many steps needed to fulfill that goal.

– Michael Spivak, U Multicultural

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U Multicultural.

Telling Stories of the Asian Diaspora Through Film

The past few years have seen an explosion of diversity in the film industry—films featuring diverse creators, stories, and cultures. These stories aren’t only being created in Hong Kong, Korea, or Hollywood; there are numerous talented creators from the Asian diaspora producing films right here in Manitoba. The FascinAsian FilmContinue Reading

Read More »

Mental Health Conversations Need To Continue

Help yourself or those you love in hope and recovery from mood disorders. http://www.mooddisordersmanitoba.ca/services/ Peer Support: 204-560-1461 Toll-Free:  1-800-263-1460 Hours of Operation: 9-9, Monday to Friday The conversation around mental health and illness is more important than ever. In research conducted by the Canadian mental Health Association (CMHA), 1 in 5 Canadians experiencesContinue Reading

Read More »

Igniting Folk in Victoria

Folk is a culture’s stories and traditions, preserving its heritage and history. Folktoria, held in Centennial Square in downtown Victoria brings together the area’s numerous communities to celebrate diversity, culture, and unification. “For me, it’s the stories and history I grew up with to understand my culture,” says Sonia Grewal,Continue Reading

Read More »

Share this post with your friends

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Subscribe to Our Newsletter