Every single Christie staff and volunteer has been inspired by the resilience we see everyday in refugee families. At the same time, we know that refugees to Canada have an elevated risk of experiencing a range of mental health problems as a result of their exposure to war, violence, torture, and forced migration. These problems are ameliorated by connection – so the pandemic has been a particularly tough time for many of our clients.

In light of the increased mental health struggles of the refugees Christie serves, we are so grateful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for a Resilient Communities Fund grant to develop a mental health strategy for clients.

The strategy is intended to address the following questions:

  • Are Christie clients currently receiving adequate mental health supports through referrals to community partners?
  • What initiatives would better support shelter and community clients to find the mental health supports they need, in a timely manner? Should Christie consider delivering mental health services directly?
  • How can we improve and expand mental health training for our staff?
  • How can we best promote the health and well-being of Christie staff?

So far, the work has focused on researching available resources, learning more about the experience of clients with mental health needs, and connecting with external partners. The research tells us that the mental health needs of refugees often emerge over time, and that the post-migration experience has a significant impact on the severity of mental health problems. Research also tells us that many professionals who support refugees experience their own emotional distress.

In the coming months there will be more information for Christie staff and clients about initiatives to strengthen capacity and improve mental health services.

If you have questions or suggestions about strengthening mental health supports at Christie please contact the mental health coordinator, Barney Savage, at barney_savage@christierc.com.