A new initiative funded by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), called the Newcomer Health and Wellness Program, aims to provide holistic mental health services for newcomers in Canada. IRCC has allotted a total of $2.2 million for the program.
The program that focuses on improving the mental health and well-being of immigrants and refugees aged 12 years and above is being implemented by the Canadian Mental Health Association, York Region & South Simcoe (CMHA-YRSS) – a branch of a national non-profit organization serving the York Region in the Greater Toronto Area.
Recent studies on the mental health of new immigrants have proven that new immigrants are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems. One of these studies, published by Statistics Canada and IRCC, proved that immigrants are healthier than the Canadian-born population, a phenomenon, which they named “healthy immigrant effect”. But later, the stress caused by cultural differences, language barriers and integration process to a new society affects their health badly.
The mental health problems suffered by new immigrants include PTSD experiences from their home country, stress, grief, loss, mental distress, depression and anxiety.
Though settlement agencies and local healthcare providers offer support to the new immigrants in this regard, they are not designed to meet the specific needs and realities of the immigrant population. Some immigrants are also ignorant about the services that are available to them.
The new program, launched in August, aims to offer a range of services that include mental and physical assessment, counselling, psychotherapy, health and wellness promotion and training, family counselling and trauma-specific services.
The services will be provided in the preferred language of the clients. The screening tool is also specifically designed for immigrants and refugees.
The program was developed keeping in mind the diverse background of immigrants and the different ways in which they cope with stress. The funding for the program is allotted for three years with the possibility of a two-year extension. It is expected that the size of the immigrant population will double by 2036. The new program sends across the message that Canada aims to ensure that all residents of the country have access to equitable and quality mental health services.