Taking care of your mental health
By Delaney Rombough
Posted on February 22, 2021
TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains topics such as self-harm, violence, suicide, and rape. This may distress some readers.
Moving to a new country can be exciting, stressful, lonely, and hard all at the same time. It can take a toll on your mental health. Mental well-being affects our ability to enjoy and cope with everyday life. Mental health is as important as physical health, so it’s important that you take care of it.
There are many different kinds of mental illness, and people may experience different symptoms. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should consider seeing a mental health professional or your family doctor.
- Feeling sad
- Reduced ability to concentrate
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
- Significant tiredness, low energy, or sleeping problems
- Detachment from reality, paranoia, or hallucinations
- Withdrawal from friends, family, or activities
- Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
- Major changes in eating habits
- Changes in sex drive
- Problems with drugs or alcohol abuse
- Excessive anger, hostility, or violence
- Suicidal thoughts
- Physical symptoms may include: headaches, stomach aches, back pain, or other unexplained aches and pains.
Common mental illnesses
There are many different kinds of mental illness, and each one may affect individuals differently. These are some of the most common mental illnesses that newcomers may experience.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Anxiety causes a person to be extremely worried about many things, even if there might not be a reason for it. This goes beyond your everyday nervousness about a presentation at work or similar activity.
- Major Depressive Disorder (also known as clinical depression): Depression causes feelings of extreme sadness or hopelessness that lasts for two weeks or more.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a mental illness that can be triggered by traumatic events experienced or witnessed in the past. These experiences may range from extreme events, like natural disasters or war, to verbal abuse.
- Social Anxiety Disorder: Social anxiety disorder causes extreme fear or nervousness of social situations. This may make it difficult for people to be around other people, make new friends, and/or attend social events.
For more information and more details about various mental illnesses, symptoms, and treatments, visit mayoclinic.org.
Types of resources and treatments available
Depending on your situation, there are different types of resources available. Different organizations offer different services. Some examples of services that are available across Canada include: Individual counselling and psychology services, group therapy, women’s groups, men’s groups, and yoga, and other specific programs.
- Individual psychotherapy: Psychotherapy can either be short-term (up to 16 sessions), focusing on immediate issues and concerns, or long-term, addressing more complex, long standing issues. This form of therapy can be beneficial for both children and adults. It is primarily talk-based. Therapists are trained in a wide variety of methods which can be tailored for your specific needs. These professionals can help you work through anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, violence, or any other emotional difficulty. Everyone has their own goals for therapy; therapists can help you develop healthy coping strategies, provide insight, evaluate and treat mental illness, or just be someone you can talk to. You may need a referral from your family doctor in order to see a psychiatrist. This is usually not required for therapists with other mental health designations.
- Group therapy and peer support: In group therapy, a qualified therapist works with a small group of patients or clients. The goal is to relieve stress through discussion, express feelings, change attitudes and behaviours, and provide more constructive ways of coping. It may also be beneficial to connect with others who have gone through similar experiences and provide a sense of community. There are also options for couples’ counselling and family counselling depending on your needs and therapy goals.
- Women’s groups: Women in the group gain support from other women and share their experiences on various aspects of their lives, such as relationships, prenatal and postpartum periods, rape, domestic abuse, and trauma.
- Men’s groups: Men’s groups are less common, but they do exist. In these small groups, a therapist facilitates a discussion on diverse topics like sexism, systemic issues, and other individual problems that impact their mental health.
- Hospitals: Most hospitals have a mental health unit that can assist you in getting the help you need.
Getting help in your first language
Often, it is easier to communicate your needs to someone who speaks the same language as you. There are many organizations that offer services in different languages. These organizations offer many of the same services and programs mentioned above, but the psychologists and counsellors speak your first language. The following organizations offer mental health help in multiple languages.
- Access Alliance – offers services in over 180 languages, onsite and remote interpretation and translation, and services in American Sign Language (ASL).
- Afghan Women’s Organization Refugee & Immigrant Services – offers interpretation and translation services as well as English classes; their services are provided in different languages including but not limited to: Dari, Farsi, Pashto, Tajiki, Uzbeki, Arabic, Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, and Turkmani.
- Hong Fook Mental Health Association – works with Asian communities (Cambodian, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Korean and Vietnamese) in the Greater Toronto Area.
- Multicultural Mental Health Resource Centre – offers services in over 20 languages. They also have written information on their website in multiple languages, and they offer interpretation services. You can easily find mental health practitioners who speak your languages in this organization.
- Carizon – primarily offers group programs and workshops; the information on their website is also available in English, Farsi, Spanish, Arabic, and Tigrigna.
- Across Boundaries – provides a wide range of support to people of colour in the Greater Toronto Area who are experiencing severe mental illness. Services are available in English, Arabic, Urdu, Somali, Hindi, Gujarati, Filipino, Chinese, Farsi, Tamil, Twi, Dari, Pashto, Sinhala, and Swahili.
In case of an emergency
If you are experiencing severe mental health symptoms and if you think you may hurt yourself or others, get help right away.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number.
- Go to the emergency room at the hospital.
- Call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at toll free 1-833-456-4566.
- Contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 686868.
- Youth ages 20 and under can call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.
- Call your doctor or mental health professional.
It is important to note that if you are not the one experiencing symptoms but know someone who is, you should take suicide threats seriously; call emergency services and notify them of the situation, and/or go to the hospital for further assistance.
Mental illness affects one in five Canadians, and it’s OK if it affects you, too. There are plenty of resources available and people who are willing to help. For additional resources in your city, check out www.ementalhealth.ca. You are not alone.