MHCC Backs Research in Case for Diversity with an Investment in Refugee Mental Health

They say timing is everything. This is certainly true in the case of prescient policy work undertaken by the Mental Health Commission of Canada to improve mental health services and supports by and for immigrants, refugees, ethno-cultural and racialized (IRER) populations.

“We began our work to understand the disparity in service usage before the Syrian refugee crisis, and before recent revisions to Canada’s immigration policy,” says Ed Mantler, MHCC Vice-President of Programs and Priorities. “We have long understood this population to be underserved, and now we really have the momentum to push forward with the case for service improvement.”

Mantler is referring to the MHCC’s Case for Diversity Project, which began in 2014, building on a significant prior research paper.

Led by Drs. Kwame McKenzie and Branka Agic, this seminal work paints an up-to-date portrait of the demography of diversity in Canada, promising practices, and an economic analysis.

“To ensure fair access to mental health services for IRER populations, equity must become part of health system planning, including setting targets and identifying those responsible for leading change,” says Dr. Kwame McKenzie, co-principal investigator on the project and Director of Health Equity at CAMH. “As a country with a diverse population and an increasingly knowledge-based economy, the mental health of all of Canada’s residents is an important investment and we cannot afford to leave anyone behind.”

MHCC President and CEO Louise Bradley echoes Dr. McKenzie’s perspective. “We can now point to specific numbers that tell us we aren’t investing enough in the mental wellness of a vulnerable population,” says Bradley. “By replicating promising practices, we can make smart, targeted investments that are likely to have the greatest impact. And we are prepared to back this research with an investment of our own.”

At the launch event of the Case for Diversity, Bradley announced that the MHCC will provide funding to the Refugee Mental Health Project, an evidence-informed online course – available in English and French – to help settlement, social and health service providers build knowledge and skills around the needs of refugees.