Socially diverse multicultural and multiracial people on an isolated white background. Happy old and young women and men with children, as well as people with disabilities standing together.

McGill launches multicultural mental health initiative

Canadian researchers have launched a unique online resource to help people of diverse backgrounds cope with mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. The tool seeks to improve the quality and access to mental health services for diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, including new Canadians, refugees as well as members of established ethnocultural communities. The researchers say these groups have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic both physically and mentally.

Canada shaped by immigration

Canada is a multicultural society. It has been shaped by waves of immigrants and their descendants. It also has a diverse Indigenous population. In the 20th century alone, Canada welcomed more than 13.4 million immigrants. Canada has one of the highest per capita immigration rates in the world. 

The Multicultural Mental Health Resource Centre (MMHRC) was created by researchers at the McGill University, affiliated hospitals The Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital and the Jewish General Hospital, and it is supported through funding from the telecom Bell’s ongoing Let’s Talk mental health initiative. 

The Multicultural Mental Health Resource Centre offers culturally sensitive information to patients and families, health care professionals, community organizations and policy makers. (MMHRC)

Information provided for many groups

It will provide tools for several different groups. For patients and their families it will offer information in several languages on mental health issues and treatments, how to find culturally appropriate services and ways to help people maintain their well-being.

Health care professionals will have access to information on cultural-assessment tools and methods, access to interpreters and culture brokers and recommendations for treatment interventions that are culturally adapted.

Community organizations can find material for educators about support programs for people living with mental health issues and information about advocacy and stigma reduction. 

Policy makers, planners and administrators will find information on health disparities and recommendations to improve services.

Once the pandemic has eased and hospitals resume out-patient visits, the two hospitals will have interactive kiosks where patients and staff can consult the website. 

Creator seeks greater equity in mental health care

The initiative was led by Dr. Laurence Kirmayer, a renowned researcher in the field of transcultural psychiatry. “Addressing issues of language, culture, religion and other aspects of diversity, the MMHRC will promote greater equity in mental health care,” said Dr. Kirmayer. “Mental health is often viewed differently in different cultures, which requires culturally responsive approaches to meet the needs of those seeking help.”

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