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Post-migration support crucial to resettled Syrians’ mental health: experts

Post-migration support crucial to resettled Syrians’ mental health: experts

Reaching a land of safety is just the beginning; then comes the stressful reality of securing housing, jobs and building new lives.

Hussam Majbour, a former Syrian refugee, just received his Canadian citizenship and is taking computer networking courses. For many months after his arrival, he went through dark days of anxiety and depression due to his uncertain status. Majbour found support by volunteering as an interpreter at the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture.

CHRIS SO / TORONTO STAR Order this photo

Hussam Majbour, a former Syrian refugee, just received his Canadian citizenship and is taking computer networking courses. For many months after his arrival, he went through dark days of anxiety and depression due to his uncertain status. Majbour found support by volunteering as an interpreter at the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture.

A former refugee from Syria, Hussam Majbour is no stranger to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

Although the 34-year-old man fled Damascus to Toronto in 2008 — years before his homeland plunged into turmoil, sparking the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War — he understands that reaching a land of safety is just the beginning for the 25,000 Syrian refugees starting to arrive in Canada.

Soon, said Majbour, the new, stressful reality of securing housing, jobs, schools and a social support network will sink in — and that’s when the newcomers’ mental health will be most vulnerable.

“They have lost everything and left behind repression and poor conditions back home. It is important they have housing, jobs and social support,” said Majbour, who has a degree in English literature and has found support by volunteering as an interpreter at the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture.

“They need to feel included and welcomed and be connected with their new community. Mental health could be an issue if they are isolated, without the social support they need.”

While many who’ll be arriving in Canada in the coming months will have experienced first-hand the horrors of war, and perhaps have lost loved ones, experts say worries over the resettled Syrians’ psychiatric needs are overblown.

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