Organizations providing mental health services for refugees are overwhelmed by need
MONTREAL -- For organizations helping refugees adapt to coming to Canada, mental health services are a big need – especially now, when people are arriving during a lockdown.
New refugees are dealing with some extra challenges in addition to this pandemic.
"Once they arrive here, they still need to deal with the stress of what they experienced in their country,” explained Jacques Bertrand of RIVO-résilience, an organization helping people traumatized from organized violence. “It could be torture, for example, or seeing someone being murdered, and they need to adapt to this country."
Organizations providing mental health care for refugees and new Canadians say they're overwhelmed.
"We're not able to help everybody that comes to our door and asks for help. So I think if the government could invest in mental health and providing services for individuals that are most affected by the pandemic, I think we would all benefit," said psychologist Sophia Koukoui.
Many of the resources refugees use have been suspended, forcing organizations like The Refugee Centre to team up with the Red Cross to fill in the gaps.
It's important for both Quebec and Ottawa to increase support for this population, because as much as refugees need Canada, Canada benefits from them too, explained Abdulla Daoud of The Refugee Centre.
"Newcomers are an economic and social cornerstone of Canada, it's our history. And it's crucial for us to ensure that strong mental health creates better integration practices and better resettlement practices," said Daoud.
The Quebec government has increased mental health spending by $100 million, some of which will trickle down to these organizations, but Canada has re-started deportations for some asylum seekers. Immigration hearings and work permits are facing long pandemic-related delays.
"They’re struggling because they really want to succeed here, but they're finding little avenues to do so and financial and social pressure are kind of caving in with little to no answers on their end," said Daoud.