Mental health challenges often result from trauma. This is especially true for immigrants and refugees.
Many newcomers to Winnipeg have lived through political and economic instability in their home countries. Some come from cultures that view mental health issues as shameful. Plus, adapting to an entirely new cultural environment is tough. All this and more can lead to a variety of mental health challenges.
So, last summer the Canadian Multicultural Disability Centre (CMDC) launched a Mental Health Support Group to work with 30 youth experiencing trauma-related challenges.
“There was no support available in Manitoba to immigrant young adults with mental health problems,” says Dr. Zephania Matanga, CMDC Executive Director. “This is alarming given that a large percentage of this population has been noted to be at-risk for multiple problems including violence, gang involvement, low productivity, high drop-out rates and low employment.”
Matanga is hopeful the program will help participants find themselves.
“We hope the participants begin to tell a story from their own perspective and change their world outlook,” Mantanga says. “Once somebody is able to articulate his vision, then he can look for a job, he can participate in the community, network. And if somebody can tell his own story, he can share peace.”
The program has already proven successful. One young Sudanese refugee was finally able to secure an internship – his first job since coming to Canada in 2011 – after completing the sessions.
“He’s been able to move out of the cocoon he was in,” Matanga says.