Live Well: Diversity and Mental Health Forum 2013

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Over six and a half million Canadians experience a mental health disorder during their lifetime. That’s one in every five people! Unfortunately, many people don’t ask for help because they feel ashamed or scared of the cultural implications, stigma and methods of care associated to their condition or that of a family member.  The forum brought together the diverse communities across Scarborough and East York, providing educational workshops, thought provoking discussions and interactive activities all aimed at exploring issues of mental wellness and diversity in our immigrant and newcomer communities. The forum explored both the challenges and effective strategies that foster stronger and healthier individuals and the communities in which they live in.

Although mental illnesses have similar symptoms across cultures, their manifestations and how people describe and interpret symptoms vary according to the cultural and sociological backgrounds of these communities.

The 3 workshops were held at Access Point at 3079 Danforth Avenue , covering topics such as:

  • MENTAL HEALTH 101 – A workshop designed to examine individual understandings and experiences of mental health and the “illness” paradigms that are dominant in Canadian society.
  • COMMUNITY DISCUSSION ON SETTLEMENT AND MENTAL WELLNESS-WHAT WORKS – A Sharing Circle workshop that explored the difficulties immigrants face during the settlement and integration periods and the effective strategies  which can be employed to overcome the mental stressors they may encounter.
  • PARENTING AND CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH – This workshop was aimed at educating parents and caregivers on how to recognize and understand stress in children and equips them with the knowledge, awareness and skills to help children become more healthier and resilient by learning how to manage their stress in classroom and other social settings.

The workshops were also coupled with a planery discussion from health and immigrant professionals alike, who provided their perspective on issues of ‘Mentla Health and Culture’, ‘Health and Community Engagement as a Remedy’ and  ‘Men’s Mental State of Mind and the Family’. These topics were presented by Dr. Theresa Dremetsikas, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, Akm Alamgir PhD, Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services, Kirk Reyes,  Mental Health Survivor and Scarborough Resident , respectively.

Afterwards, participant were treated to a meditation exercise led by Toni and Winky Wa in  Tai Chi Meditation techniques.

Overall the forum ensured that residents, newcomer and immigrant alike became more aware of mental health issues and how best to address them, within their family dynamics but also as a community; understanding the symptoms of depression and anxiety from the onset and tackle it effectively; gained insight into the experiences of those living with mental illness and other health issues ; challenge stigma towards people with experience of mental health issues; and understand the “sphere of influence” that affects their health and how to address them for healthier outcomes.

The success of the Live Well: Diversity and Mental Health Forum through the collaboration of our LIP partners and the Taylor Massey Mental Wellness and Harm Reduction Workgroup has highlighted the need for further health focused initiatives that reflect the diverse population and health trends of immigrants throughout Scarborough.  The TEQ LIP looks forward to partnering with other players in future initiatives to enhance health outcomes for newcomer.

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