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Mental health: refusing help to avoid stigma

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Congolese-born Jacques Lehani Kagayo lost a child just four months after arriving in Canada in 2014. Despite the shock at the time, he and his wife did not accept the mental health support that many organizations in Windsor offered them.

We said no to the service because for us, this mental health service is like losing your mind and being considered crazyexplains Mr. Kagayo.

Jacques Lehani Kagayo wants immigrant communities, especially of African origin, to be made aware of the importance of mental health services.

Photo: GABRIEL NIKUNDANA

Today, he would necessarily not be more comfortable accepting this type of help because of the way his community might view him and his family.

In most traditional African communities, those who seek mental health service are marginalized, he points out.

To be known as someone who has gone through mental health services, or benefited from the services of psychologists, culturally or mentally sounds like someone has gone off the rails or has a few balls in their brain that don’t fit anymore. »

A quote from Windsor resident Jacques Lehani Kagayo

According to Philippine Ishak, senior manager at 5 W, some of their clients are reluctant to talk openly about their mental health issues.

Photo: GABRIEL NIKUNDANA

This fear of rejection, Philippine Ishak also notes. Senior manager at 5W, a Windsor organization that helps immigrant women in particular to access the labor market, she often witnesses situations where her clients are reluctant to confide in their mental health problems.

The biggest challenge is often the stigma people associate with mental health illnesses she explains.

Lack of knowledge of the environment

Richard Makitu Dolomingo has experienced intense anxiety and stress before, but when he needs help, he draws on his own resources.

I resort to my personal methods, go for sports. It happened to me one day to wake up at midnight to go to my sport, I worked and I came home. It was finishedhe confides.

Richard Makitu Dolomingo says he doesn’t like exposing his difficulties to others outside his community.

Photo: GABRIEL NIKUNDANA

In more serious situations, he calls on those around him.

When I have a problem that is beyond me, I can go to my brother, I can see the people around me and can solve my problemhe confides.

It could happen that I could fall due to stress, that’s when maybe I wouldn’t have the will to go there, people could take me there, but on my own, I don’t never thought of going there when I have an anxiety or stress problem. »

A quote from Windsor resident Richard Makitu Dolomingo

He also admits that even if he wanted to seek outside help, he wouldn’t know where to turn. An observation shared by Jacques Lehani Kagayo.

People do not have enough information about these services, people fail to take these services because they are not informed enoughhe explains.

Possible solutions

For Jacque Lehani Kagayo, we should go further and explore how services of this type are perceived in their country of origin and use reassuring terminology to convince people to use them.

Basile Bakumbane is of the same opinion. According to him, the importance of mental health services should be explained to newcomers as soon as they arrive.

It’s not that they don’t need it. They do not know that it exists and that it can be a solutionhe said.

We are not sufficiently informed. We’re not going. Sometimes we say that we know how to solve our problems, we believe that it will calm down in us, we don’t know that it will have repercussions on our mind later. »

A quote from Basil Bakumbane

Basile Bakumbane would himself be ready to call on psychological services, but only discreetly.

Photo: GABRIEL NIKUNDANA

According to him, the best would be to multiply the information sessions on the importance of this question because there is a cultural problem.

If the information circulates and the community adopts it, the rest will go without saying.he says.

Raising awareness is certainly a good avenue, according to the experience of Philippine Ishak who observes that when the barrier of fear is overcome, clients begin to talk, accept advice and treatment proposals.

Maisha Buuma, professor of psychotherapy at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, also advocates for the promotion of mental health services to newcomers.

I will say that the African immigrant population consults very little […] they are less numerous, they are rare in terms of frequency […].he explains.

For him, community organizations have the role of broadening the understanding of the concept of health among these groups.

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