Refugees at high risk for mental health issues, experts say
OTTAWA — Refugees are at a high-risk for mental health issues and often suffer spiked rates of depression and substance abuse, Canadian experts say.
Dr. Kwame McKenzie, a psychiatrist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, says challenges for newcomers often stretch far beyond post-traumatic stress disorder following time in war zones or refugee camps.
“The truth is, the studies have shown that the rates of mental health problems are increased, for every mental health problem,” he said.
Some of those issues include a higher-risk of schizophrenia and depression, McKenzie said, adding he is pleased the government plans to help refugees settle immediately in host communities.
Unlike the 5,000 refugees who came to Canada from Kosovo in 1999, Syrians will not be housed on military bases unless it is deemed necessary.
“Some of the studies that have been seen worldwide say that you can decrease the risk significantly if you’re careful about what you do when people come to the country,” he said.
The effects of conflict, displacement, travel and family separation were all considered when the federal government crafted its plan, Health Minister Jane Philpott said Tuesday as the Liberals announced they intend to bring 10,000 refugees to Canada by year’s end and another 15,000 by February.
“Mental health concerns are amongst the concerns that we expect to see,” Philpott said.
The minister also said the government determined it would be in the best interest of refugees to ensure a quick transition into communities.
“We believe that as soon as they can get to their ultimate destination, that will be the better,” Philpott said.
The challenge of mental health among Syrian refugees has been on the radar of government officials for several months, according to documents obtained through Access to Information.