Case for Diversity
In 2012, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) released its National Strategy (en francais) to improve the well-being and mental health of everyone, with a system that can truly meet the needs of all people living with mental illnesses and their families. In the strategy one of the key priorities was acknowledging different populations within Canada, their specific needs, and the inequities they face. The Commission’s Issues and Options report for Immigrant, Refugee, Ethno-Cultural and Racialized populations (IRER) was a starting point, however, the MHCC wanted to build on this and develop a case – both economic and social – for investing in culturally and linguistically appropriate and diverse mental health services. The Case for Diversity (CFD) was a research project between the department of Health Equity at CAMH and the Wellesley Institute, in partnership with the MHCC’s Knowledge Exchange Centre.
Canada has a particular interest in initiatives that can improve the health of immigrant, refugee, ethno-cultural and racialized populations. Canada’s prosperity, growth and strength are tied to the diversity of the nation. To properly address disparities in access to care, stigma and outcomes it is important to address the social determinants of health as increased exposure to the negative impacts of the social determinants may increase risk of mental health problems for all Canadians. However, IRER populations are more likely than the general population to be exposed to the social determinants, and may face novel issues that are rarely encountered by those who are not part of IRER populations.
The CFD report highlights a number of key things, including:
- rates of mental health problems differ significantly among IRER populations, between them and that social, political, and historical context matter;
- IRER populations generally have lower rates than Canadian born populations or in comparison to a general Canadian population, it is important to recognize that there are inter-group and intra-group differences that are often ignored;
- regardless of the rates of mental health problems, IRER groups are less likely to seek services than the general population; and
- investing in services for IRER populations that are sensitive, culturally adapted and accessible can help to save money and is good for the economy.
Since the release of the CFD report, the department of Health Equity continues to work with MHCC to communicate the information from the report to policy leaders, system leaders and other researchers. The CFD was a focal part of the knowledge exchange and dialogue at the MHCC’s action roundtable for mental health of IRER populations in March 2017. The key messages from the CFD have also been presented to the Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council.