Promoting Cross-Cultural Mental Health in BC

Kim on March 13, 2013

On this rainy Vancouver morning I had the opportunity to participate in a really interesting discussion about promoting mental health among culturally and linguistically diverse communities in British Columbia.

Meeting participants included representatives from a variety of different community and hospital-based programs. All of them were in some way involved in delivering mental health services to different cultural groups in the province. It was great to hear about some of the incredible projects that are happening, including culturally appropriate parenting workshops, education sessions about mental health for immigrant and refugee families, and peer support groups – just to name a few!

The purpose of the meeting was to share ideas and learn about ways that different organizations can work together to provide mental health education, resources and services that are culturally appropriate and easily accessible to families who are new to Canada, or whose first language is not English.

I learned a lot about some of the challenges that culturally diverse families can face in learning about and addressing mental health challenges. Mental health issues are often personal - and can be difficult for anyone to talk about. Opening up can be especially difficult in certain cultures, where even saying the words “mental health” can put an end to a conversation. The challenge of building trust and connection between a care provider and a patient was also identified; until a trusting relationship is established, many families do not feel comfortable discussing their mental health challenges with their health care provider. Language barriers can also make it hard for patients to express themselves, ask questions, seek and access the services they are looking for, and the mental health care system can be confusing for anyone to navigate – including health care professionals!

At the meeting, participants came up with all kinds of creative ways of addressing mental health issues without making things too uncomfortable or stigmatizing. For example, framing mental health education as creating “healthy families” or “wellness” made it easier to start a conversation about common mental health issues, such as stress, anxiety, depression or ADHD. Many organizations found it helpful to emphasize the aspects of their program which aligned with the values and beliefs of the cultural group they were trying to reach. Other organizations had used incentives - such as school credits or the opportunity for skills training - as a way to draw people to services which promote positive mental health. Empowering youth is also a good way to spread information about mental health, as these youth are often eager to share their new knowledge and skills with their family and friends. Finally, local libraries were identified as an important space for offering mental health information and resources in a variety of languages and in a safe, non-stigmatizing environment.

I was amazed and inspired by the energy in the room. It was clear that everyone who participated was very passionate and enthusiastic about promoting the mental health and well-being of their community. I look forward to next steps, and to continuing to collaborate with these groups to promote cross-cultural mental health literacy across the province. Thanks to everyone who came and shared!


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BC Children's Hospital

This is an agency of Provincial Health Services Authority, providing provincial tertiary mental health services to the citizens of British Columbia. Programs include: Adult Tertiary Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Women’s Reproductive Mental Health, as well as the Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program for children and youth located at the BC Children’s Hospital.

Provincial Health Services Authority

Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is one of six health authorities – the other five health authorities serve geographic regions of BC.

Ministry of Health

British Columbia Ministry of Health

RBC Children's Mental Health Project

RBC Children’s Mental Health Project is RBC's cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar; RBC Children’s Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues.

BC Children's Hospital Foundation

Through a wide range of fundraising events and opportunities, The BC Children's Hospital Foundation is united with its donors by a single, simple passion - to improve the health and the lives of the young people who enter BC Children's Hospital every day.