The Importance Of Mental Health Among Immigrants

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Canada prides itself on being a multicultural country due to its large population of immigrants. Immigrants contribute greatly to Canada’s economy, culture and general society. Immigrants often come to Canada in search of a better life but they can encounter stressors that can have a large impact on their mental health. In this essay I will explore some factors that lead to mental health issues among the immigrant population, what prevents immigrants from accessing help and measures that could and should be taken to address this issue.
Agyekum and Newhold (2016) note how “the health of immigrants has been observed to deteriorate within a few years of arriving in Canada, with the decline in immigrants’ physical and mental health said to be
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One reason that explains why immigrants do not seek help is the language barrier that immigrants struggle with. The fact that “mental health treatment relies on direct verbal communication rather than objective tests as for physical illness …” (Kim et al., 2011, p.104) makes it really difficult for immigrants with low English proficiency levels to accurately describe their symptoms to a doctor further isolating them without receiving professional help. Many cultures also consider mental health issues “taboo” and might not have direct translations for such issues. (Simich, 2010, p.20). Another factor is the stigma that many cultures attach to mental health issues. In some cultures, being open about mental health struggles can lead to “social isolation and social sanctions” (Chaze, Thomson, George, & Guruge, 2015, p.96) Many immigrants are also used to seeing mental health issues as a weakness and fear not being able to trust anyone with their issues (Chaze et al., 2015, p.96). Low levels of English proficiency and the stigma that is attached to mental health are two of the many causes of low levels of mental health literacy among the immigrant population. Mental health literacy can be defined as “the ability to seek information, learn, appraise, make decisions, communicate information, prevent diseases and promote individual, family and community health” (Simich, 2010, p.17). The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, as cited by Simich (2010) “has identified immigrants as a priority group for mental health literacy interventions”

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