Mental Health Concerns

Canada is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. It would make sense that as there are more than 200,000 immigrants and around 25,000 refugees who come to Canada each year, that we would have mental health services readily accessible to them. However this is not the case, and the mental health system has unfortunately failed many. 

Minority discrimination is present in psychiatric diagnoses. There are also several social and economic aspects in terms of racism that impact mental health negatively, therefore minorities are not only subject to bias in terms of their mental health, but their mental health is also impacted more negatively than the majority of people due to racism. 

Some mental health concerns for minority groups are higher levels of anxiety, higher risks of depression and suicide, and damaged self esteem. The Aboriginal community in particular suffers from another wide range of mental health problems such as extremely high rates of suicide, alcoholism and substance abuse. Many of these problems can be traced back to oppression, land displacement, marginalization, and the dislocation of identity and culture. These are all realities for members of the indigenous communities. 

Deterioration rates of mental health are different among populations, however minority groups are more likely to be exposed to certain aspects that could worsen their mental health than the general public. 

Gaps In Accessibility

Although the mental health of minorities and the indigenous community suffer at significant rates, there is little research or programming available in psychiatric settings for them. Our psychiatric system is still eurocentric in its values and practises, and so there are no doubt systemic challenges for people in minority groups. The majority of staff in decision making processes are not from racialized groups, and so there are not enough impacts or influences needed for organizational changes to be made to make the system inclusive. 

There are many factors that impact accessibility for marginalized groups which include but are not limited to: 

  • Information only in English and French.
  • Few culturally specific outreach initiatives or service promotion to Aboriginal or racialized communities.
  • Poor referral relationships with community agencies.
  • Problematic physical location
  • Lack of awareness of community and community needs and issues by mainstream institutions

These factors negatively impact the relationship between psychiatric and minority communities, and places a burden on smaller community agencies with fewer resources.

The care of people in need should not be made general, it should be fluid and intersectional.

In a survey done in Ontario, they found that there is a much lower usage of mental health services among minority groups with worsening mental health, which is alarming. Perhaps, this is because there are limitations to service, or because they do not feel comfortable seeking help, or perhaps they just don’t want to. However, I believe that accessibility to these services needs to be widened and become much more inclusive. Part of the solution could include doing research on topics that specifically affect the mental health of the minority population as well as culturally specific studies. It could also include more culturally inclusive or diverse programming to include minority groups, as well as increased funding. I believe the biggest factor is awareness — we must raise awareness on uncomfortable or taboo topics such as mental health problems, as well as researching how to better the mental health of minority and racialized populations specifically, in order to create change. Although it will not happen overnight, I do believe that with an acute amount of awareness, and even anger, the mental health system can and will be forced to change. 

If you would like to know more about what Canada has done in terms of initiative towards the care of immigrants, refugees, racialized and minority groups, please read this article.