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How Can Settlement Teams Support a Newcomer’s Mental Health?

Newcomers arriving to Canada from PNG and Nauru have faced significant trauma during their period of prolonged detention. This is in addition to the traumas they may have experienced in their home countries that caused them to flee. We expect that everyone who arrives will need mental health and trauma supports made available, whether it is to deal with the effects of long-term detention, the stresses of adjusting to a new culture, or the grief and loss of leaving friends behind who are still in detention.

It is important to remember that members of settlement teams are NOT trained counsellors and are not expected to act in that capacity. Instead, teams should work with newcomers to find available professional supports and services.

While settlement agencies and local mental health providers may offer resources generalized to, for example, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or depression, it can be important for providers to understand the prolonged and debilitating nature of long-term detention. There are 3 organizations in Canada who, while not dealing specifically with the effects of long-term detention, work with newcomers who have experienced torture and other forms of organized violence. They are the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture (CCVT) in Toronto, the Vancouver Association for the Survivors of Torture (VAST) and the Intervention Network for Persons Affected by Organized Violence (RIVO) in Montreal.

The Multicultural Mental Health Resource Centre (MMHRC) has resources available for laypeople and providers, often in multiple languages. They also have a helpful section listing practitioners and organizations by province and territory.

LGBTQ2S newcomers may face additional challenges as they negotiate the effects of long-term detention but also issues around sexual and gender identity or gender expression. In Ontario, OCASI’s (Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants) “Positive Spaces Initiative” has links to counsellors across Ontario who serve LGBTQ2S newcomers. In B.C., MOSAIC hosts “I Belong”, a space to support and LGBTQ2S newcomers, including support groups and counselling.

Refugees, Mental Health & Sponsorship

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