Thursday, November 11, 2010

Immigrants' Mental Health in Spotlight

I was born in Canada and have lived here my entire life so I cannot imagine what it would be like to come to an unfamiliar country and try to adapt to a different way of life. I also cannot imagine what it would be like to come into a country with a mental illness and feel like an outsider. You are away from your relatives, the place you once called home, your friends and the familiarity of your home country.

I came across an article online that discusses the challenges immigrants face when they come to our country. It also discusses the reality of some immigrants developing depression or another mental illness after coming to our country. The immigration process can take a different toll on each individual and they may react or deal with the challenges differently. When you immigrate to Canada you are not covered under our healthcare until you have become a Canadian citizen. For those that come to Canada either with a mental illness or those who develop a mental illness will have to pay for their healthcare out of their own pocket. I can imagine that some who immigrate are already tight on cash and may not have the extra money to pay for prescriptions or other coping treatments for their illness. Not only are some immigrants struggling to survive financially they are also trying to adjust and learn a new way of life. This can add stresses that they have never felt before. How can we help those who are struggling with these issues?

This article also brings up a very strong point of another challenge immigrants face, it is the diagnosis of their illness. It seems it is difficult to diagnose individuals when there is a shortage of psychiatrists that can supply them with the proper diagnosis. The only way to fix that is to hire more psychiatrists but that takes time. What about those that are in need now? Often the family may suffer as well when an individual is not properly diagnosed. Either the individual is afraid of getting assistance due to the unfamiliarity of their new symptoms and emotions so it is up to the family to provide that support and care. Often immigrants come alone to a new country and their family travels over at a different time, so up until the family gets here that individual is alone in unfamiliar land.

The government needs to put in place policies and assistance for those who are in need. Canada is a proud country and is proud of the freedom we have, it’s no wonder that so many immigrants seek out Canada to call their new home. We pride ourselves on the different cultures and groups we have here. It has made our country what it is today. I think it is sad that the mentally ill can be forgotten and pushed to the back while others are taken care of. There are immigrants that enter Canada in hopes of a fresh start and a new life but may face new struggles and instead of having a happier life, will have an even harder and challenging life than before, for many reasons. We need to have resources in place not only for healthcare assistance but also for support for the families and individual.

Immigrants' Mental Health In Spotlight. (2010, September 10). CBC News. Retrieved November 11, 2010, from

Dana W


  1. I'm doing the immigrant perspective for my blog, and no one in our group has blogged about the mental health of immigrants yet. Since I've been trying to think from the immigrant perspective for the last few weeks already, your post just dug in more of the things that I have been realizing, mainly about how difficult it is to start a new life. As you mentioned, immigrants do not receive health care until they have become citizens, and this could add severely to the challenges they face. This, added on to everything else of course. Great post!

    -Megan Rempel

  2. I felt that I could somewhat relate to your post as I lived in Germany for 6 months with my boyfriend who was there for work. I very much felt like an immigrant and it was an extremely difficult time for me. Not only was I away from friends and family, I did not speak the language and I was unaware of cultural norms. For me, if I suffered from a mental illness during this time I would not have been able to cope with it as I would be unable to communicate with anyone. I agree that our government should have services available to immigrants to help them cope not only with a mental illness, but also to cope with day to day life, and that these services should be provided by someone who has walked in their shoes.
    Tara Purvis

  3. Your post is another great example of how mental illness is often caused by the stress and inequalities of society. Before we started this blog, I belived that mental illness was a very biological issue. The idea that mental illness can be created by problems in society indicates that they can also be reduced if the ideal of equality of condition is implemented. This may be an idea that we want to present to the class. This is a great post that really hightlights the struggles of people who are facing intersectional opression.

    -Crystal M.

  4. Great Blog. A friend of mine immigrated to Canada from Japan. Her and her family did have a very difficult time transitioning to the Canadian life. Eventually her and her daughter settled but her husband and son were having a particularly hard time. Her husband was suffering from extreme mental distress, and then decided to get in touch with a social worker. I’m not sure what was talked about but they did work on his confidence and he was so empowered by the social worker his anti-social behavior changed and he was able to meet people. This story made me proud to want to become a social worker

  5. It is sad to hear that many immigrants may not receive the health care that they require for their well-being. I have seen many people (although not immigrants) that had mental illnesses and were not properly diagnosed, or diagnosed at all. This can cause serious harm to their health. Everyone should have access to health care no matter who they are or where they come from.

    -Amanda P.

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  7. I agree that more services need to be available for people with mental illnesses. I also think that it is upsetting that such a proud country in terms of promoting multiculturalism can let immigrants and their needs slip through the cracks. I think as a nation we need to take a step back and put ourselves in the shoes of people who are new to Canada and have no support then maybe these much needed services would be made a priority.
    Great post!

    Alexis B.

  8. In my opinion, if Canada is a country that is multicultural and accepting of all people, it should be responsible for taking care of all of them. We have what is commonly called the "Cultural Mosaic" which is a term that is used to describe how Canada allows all cultures to co-exist together. Having said all of this, it is so important that we treat all the cultures and immigrants that make up this mosaic equally. What is the point in being so proud of our multicultural country if not everyone has the same treatment. We need to pay more attention to the immigrants and ensure that they can cope with moving here, as well as have proper health care from the day they arrive.

    -Marina R