New mental health videos for newcomers

Ottawa Public Health has launched two new videos about the mental health challenges of settling into a new country.

Videos aim to improve the mental health of culturally diverse populations

Ottawa Public Health has launched two new videos about mental health aimed at newcomers. (Muhammed Muheisen/The Associated Press)

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has launched two new videos about the mental health challenges of settling into a new country.

The agency partnered with more than 10 community groups, and received feedback from the community, to create the  videos aimed at newcomers and Ottawa's culturally diverse population.

"Historically these are groups of people who don't usually access mental services ... or mental health information because the content doesn't resonate with them," said Hodan Aden, a public health nurse with the mental health team at OPH.

She said targeting newcomers is critical because they're an increasing population that may not be connected to important mental health resources.

"One in four residents are of immigrant background or are foreign born ... [and] if we look at immigrants, and children of immigrants, that number goes up to 44 per cent," she said.

Hodan Aden, with Ottawa Public Health, says Ottawa's immigrant population is growing and mental health resources must reflect their experiences and struggles. (Idil Mussa/CBC News)

Immigrant health declines after arrival

Hindia Mohamoud, executive director of Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership, said the videos play a critical role in countering the shame that surrounds mental health that dissuades newcomers from seeking help.

"In immigrant communities there's a high stigma attached to [mental health issues] and so it's difficult to detect it," she said.

"It is important that families talk about it and that young people, for example, are supported if they have these challenges, anxieties, or stresses in life."

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, said there's evidence the mental and physical health of immigrants declines the longer they are in Canada. 

"Settling into a new country, adapting to a new culture, dealing with underemployment and discrimination are just few factors that increase their risk of developing poor mental health," said Etches in a release.

Aden said OPH will also be holding workshops in the spring, and in June, to inform people about the videos and to help connect them with mental health resources in the city.

"This is our first attempt of trying to make sure that we have equitable information for diverse populations," she said.