The study finds that stigma prevents many ethnic women from seeking mental health support. Nation World News

The study finds that stigma prevents many ethnic women from seeking mental health support.  CBC News

Poor access to mental health support and cultural stigma are holding many racial women back from treatment during the pandemic, a new study finds.

The research found that most of the respondents were already dealing with mental health problems before the arrival of COVID-19 and service providers can no longer meet the increased demand.

Grace Barakat, a sociology PhD candidate at York University in Toronto, who led the study, said: “Just focusing on your mental health can be a luxury and a privilege for some, and it can help meet the needs of marginalized groups.” may fail substantially.”

The research was conducted in partnership with the Toronto-based charity Islamic Relief, which was looking at a growing number of people seeking help for mental health issues during the pandemic. Many respondents worked long hours between long trips and family responsibilities. Barakat says that many had little or no health benefits, which prevented him from taking care of them.

But the stigma surrounding mental health care was still the number one reason why respondents didn’t seek it out, she says, adding that financial constraints were even higher on the list.

‘Demand was heavy’

The study was conducted online and included responses from 103 women and interviews with five service providers. The researchers caution that the sample size and lack of randomization may not reflect the broader population data of ethnic women in Canada. But they found that 52 percent of respondents had struggled with anxiety before the pandemic.

“During the peak of the lockdown and restrictions, we saw a large increase in almost every single negative mental health outcome, particularly the level of anxiety and the percentage of exhaustion and burnout,” Barakat said.

Service providers told Barakat and his team that referrals and requests were through the roof during the pandemic.

They “didn’t really handle the volume they were getting,” she said.

The study finds that stigma prevents many ethnic women from seeking mental health support. Nation World News
Meghan Watson, a registered psychotherapist and founder of Bloom Psychology & Wellness in Toronto, says cultural stigma sometimes prevents people from getting mental health help as quickly as possible. (Meghan Watson/Present)

This finding resonated with Meghan Watson, a registered psychotherapist in Toronto and founder of Bloom Psychology & Wellness.

“I found the demand was huge,” she said.

Watson opened Bloom in 2020 during the pandemic, and only a few months later had to stop accepting new patients. She says that many of her clinical colleagues at Bloom also have a full schedule.

Jasmeet Chagar, a registered nurse and co-founder of SOCH Mental Health, a non-profit that organizes wellness sessions in English, Punjabi and other languages ​​in the Peel area, says the pandemic has brought a new wave of inquiries.

Some already had mental health concerns that the pandemic worsened. Others didn’t see mental health as important to them until the pandemic awakened a new need, and in some cases, new openness to support, she says.

The study finds that stigma prevents many ethnic women from seeking mental health support. Nation World News
Jasmeet Chagar, left, and Manit Chahal are the founders of SOCH, a non-profit aimed at increasing access to mental health services and fighting the stigma against reaching out for help among South Asian communities in the Peel region. (Supplied by Jasmeet Chagar)

Chagar says the demand for support from South Asian service providers was intense, as people grapple with lockdown challenges and blockages in traditional grieving processes. For some it was a desire to talk about difficult things in their primary language, she says. But that was not the only factor.

“Some people we’ve talked to have been born and raised here, they’ve lived here their whole lives, [but] They still want a South Asian physician,” Chagar said, noting that an awareness of things like South Asian family dynamics can make a significant difference.

During the pandemic, SOCH has led group sessions for women living in multi-generational homes with their in-laws and other extended family, something common in South-Asian Canadian homes, she says. The sessions helped the participants deal with the challenges, limitations and other issues of working from home.

behind the blur

But despite the growing need for mental health support, not all respondents felt like they could ask for help.

Chagar says that many South Asian languages ​​like Punjabi don’t even have words to describe certain mental health problems.

“We have some labels for people with a mental health problem. And the only translation I can think of is literally ‘crazy,'” she said.

When mental health issues are deeply stigmatized, not everyone feels like they can reach out for help, Chagar says.

Watson has also noted the role of cultural stigma.

“People wait until they are absolutely in distress to seek help,” she said.

In some cases, the stigma is so great that it is only when a person reaches absolute distress that “things can feel valid enough for them to reach out and seek support when they really can’t.” ,” Watson said.

what can be done

The study recommends governments to explore options, including:

  • Covering more mental health services under health insurance.
  • Attractive employers to include significant mental health coverage in benefits packages.
  • Integrating culturally sensitive awareness campaigns to end the stigma against seeking help in racial communities.

Rehana Patel, communications director at Islamic Relief, says many ethnic women were telling the organization before the study that they recognized the need to address their mental health but could not access services.

Patel says different groups are trying to remove stigma and bring mental health education to diverse communities.

“There’s a lot of great work being done right now. And it’s also really important to have a lot of support in that work.”