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About the Refugee Mental Health Project

The Refugee Mental Health Project is evidence-based and developed in response to needs identified by health, settlement and social service providers who support refugees. The project is continuously assessing and adapting to the ever-changing needs in the sector. The Advisory Committee, in addition to key stakeholders, assists in guiding the ongoing development of the project. 

Why focus on the mental health of refugees?

In the past decade, Canada has resettled about 25,000 refugees annually. In 2016, more than double that, approximately 55,800 were estimated to have been welcomed. And, in 2017 the Government of Canada plans to accept 40,000 refugees and protected persons.

Since November 2015, more than 40,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada.

Refugees represent a vulnerable population that is at risk for mental health problems. The prevalence of specific types of mental health problems among refugees is determined by migration experiences and exposures to risk factors and protective factors before, during and after resettlement.

Canada's Mental Health Strategy has identified improving mental health services and supports by and for immigrants and refugees as a key priority. It is in the post-migration context where service providers can provide mental health support to refugees, which will enhance settlement outcomes. The report Supporting the Mental Health of Refugees to Canada outlines the evidence and promising practices that can guide mental health service interventions for refugees and support their integration. 

Project history

This project was initially based on the findings of the national Refugee Mental Health Practices Study conducted by Dr. Laura Simich and collaborators, which identified needs and promising practices in refugee mental health in Canada.

The Refugee Mental Health online courses first launched in 2012, with Ontario-based service providers registering for free. In 2014, the online courses were offered in French to serve Francophone communities and service providers.

In 2016, after the enrollment of over 3,500 Ontario-based settlement, social service and health care professionals in the online courses, the project began developing nationally-based content relevant to Syrian refugees. The course Refugee Mental Health: Focus on Syrian Refugees was launched in January 2017, with service providers from across Canada registering in this new course for free. In total, 5,700 service providers across Canada have enrolled in the online interactive courses.

Key Documents


Supporting the mental health of refugees to Canada
Current evidence and promising practices for refugee mental health; developed by the CAMH Health Equity Office in collaboration with the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC)

The Case for Diversity 
Building the Case to Improve Mental Health Services for Immigrant, Refugee, Ethno-cultural and Racialized Populations; developed by the CAMH Health Equity Office in collaboration with the MHCC

Health care needs and use of health care services among newly arrived Syrian refugees
Findings on the needs and difficulties newly arrived Syrian refugees may have in accessing services; conducted by the CAMH Health Equity Office

Changing directions, Changing lives
Canada’s mental health strategy highlights refugees as among the population experiencing mental health disparity and requiring a strengthened response by service providers; developed by the MHCC

Refugee Mental Health Promising Practices and Partnership Building Resources
The Refugee mental health practices study is a national needs assessment that guided the development of this project; conducted by CAMH

Project highlights


Download the infographic to get a ‘by the numbers’ glimpse at the project.

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