Monday, November 22, 2010

Immigration and Mental Health

                 Immigration to Canada is considered to be a dream-come-true for many people. Canada has a reputation as a free, multi-cultural, peaceful country in which all types of people have access to building a successful, healthy life. Many different people immigrate and seek refuge in Canada from all over the world and undoubtedly many of them are shocked by the new struggles that they face in this “ideal” country. Mental health issues are prevalent for many Canadian newcomers for many different reasons, and unfortunately, treatment is not always readily available to these groups.
                First of all, it is apparent that culture shock, racism, classism, religious persecution, fear and general oppression can create psychological stress, which often leads to the development of mental health issues. Although Canada is reputable for being an accepting nation, many communities are plagued with racial tension and discrimination exists in all levels of society. Mullaly writes that “almost all oppressed groups suffer systemic violence simply because they are members of a subordinate group (2007, p. 168).” When people are often subjected to subtle and blatant forms of violence, they will feel the effects psychologically and even physically. Also, many people arrive in Canada with mental health issues due to the dangerous or unequal conditions that they faced in their homelands.
Additionally, people who are experiencing these issues often have a hard time acquiring the means for support and treatment for many different reasons. Over the last three decades, the number of immigrants arriving in Canada has increased which puts a “greater emphasis on health care providers and the health care system to provide culturally appropriate and equitable care (Donnely, 2010, abstract).” Often immigrants access a mental health system which is culturally biased and will often fail to understand or address the social, economic and historical issues that these people face (Donnely, 2010).  Frequently, even issues such as language barriers and lack of access to social assistance can create situations in which a person in need of help cannot access it.
“Social and psychological resources (sense of coherence, coping strategies and social support) have been found to be determining factors in an individual's adjustment to a new society (Ruhi, 2010).” When these resources are lacking, the ability to become comfortable and successful in a new country is hindered. While these resources may have been readily available in their homelands, they are often unavailable or unattainable in a new Western home. Until Canada is able to present a culturally appropriate and universally accessible mental (and physical) health care system, the newcomers to this country will continue to feel the psychological stress of their past and, conceivably, their present and future.


Donnely, J. M. (2010). A Postcolonial Feminist Perspective Inquiry into Immigrant Women’s Mental Health Care Experiences. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 440-449.
Mullaly, B. (2007). The New Structural Social Work (third ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
Ruhi, T. J. (2010). Predictors of psychological well-being of Pakistani immigrants in Toronto, Canada.  International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 452-464.


  1. Very good point made Crystal. Your post made it clear that people who reside in Canada have different social and psychological needs. Since we live in a culturally diverse country (which is great!) we are in need of more diverse resources and services.

    Sarah H

  2. I agree with the fact that even though we have a lot of resources and services, it can't apply to everyone. I feel that the more different you are, the less it will benefit you because those particular resources and services do not match your specific needs.
    A lot of people have high expectations of people living in the west; thinking that because we live here that we have "perfect" lives. I know some people that were so grounded in that expectation that when they arrived here the disappointment caused problems for them in many ways, like psychologically and financially. It's sad because being affected psychologically can be long term. Great post!
    - Kristal

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  4. I can only imagine how hard it must be to move to a country that is on the other side of the world. Many immigrants come to Canada for jobs, peace, freedom, and a better overall life. It is horrible to hear that immigrants are not always granted the mental health services they require. I agree that is must be hard to treat someone when they come from a different country, have different beliefs, values, culture backgrounds, religon, and possibley speak poor English. But you would think the government would do something to help with this major problem, especially since the number of immigrants is increasing. Maybe, immigrants who come to Canada could get jobs on counselling immigrants with mental disabilities from their original homeland.

    Ashley R.

  5. Ashley, I like what you suggested about immigrants helping to support one another after they have entered Canada. People who have been here longer may have been able to access resources to help them adjust, or even found methods on their own which have helped them cope. If they spoke to people facing similar struggles from the same country of origin, a network of support and understanding could be developed!
    -Eliza R.

  6. I also like your suggestion,I think it would be very helpful. Talking from experience I know its quite overwhelming when you first arrive here, you have no one to advise you and you end up making the wrong decisions I know of many international students who complain that they faced a lot of challenges when they came here, simply because they had no one to confide in.