Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Mental Health Services for Refugees Coming to Canada

Refugees to be offered mental health services in Canada

Mark Kennedy (November 24, 2015). Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved from:

Some of the Syrian refugees coming to Canada could be afflicted with mental health problems and will be offered psychological counselling to help them through their ordeal, says the federal health minister.

Jane Philpott, who chaired the cabinet sub-committee that drafted the government’s Syrian refugee plan, said Tuesday that the initiative has a range of goals.

“One of the guiding principles was what is in the best interest of the refugees,” said Philpott, a Toronto physician who is a first-time MP.

“Obviously we have the health and safety of Canadians in mind. But the health and well-being of refugees was also forefront in our mind.”

In a federal document leaked last week, the government acknowledged that “the influx of a large number of minimally vetted refugees will certainly lead to perceived concerns to the public health of Canadians and the increased risk of infectious disease.”

On Tuesday, federal officials stressed that before refugees leave the Middle East, they will undergo a health check that includes screening for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis. Upon arrival in Canada, there will be another health check.

Philpott said the government is designing the refugee plan so that the migrants move relatively quickly to their host communities from the moment of their arrival in Canada.

Among the questions driving the plan: “How will people adapt well? How will the effects of conflict, the effects of displacement, the effects of travel, the effects of separation of family all be minimized?”

The refugees have escaped a violent civil war in their Syrian homeland and have spent months, perhaps years, in limbo as they live in settlement camps or communities in countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Many are still living with vivid memories from the conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Syrians.

“Mental health concerns are amongst the concerns that we expect to see, of the health concerns of refugees,” said Philpott.

“There is an understanding that counselling services may need to be available and that is part of the traditional refugee settlement package.”

She said refugees will have access to the interim federal health program that provides not just basic insured health services that fall under medicare, but also things like dental and prescription drug coverage.


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