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Joshua and Jacqueline Addo, with their three children. Joshua worked as a financial advisor in his home country of Ghana.

Radio-Canada

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Jacqueline Addo remembers the moment two years ago when her husband Joshua told her that adjusting to Canadian life was too much stress to bear. Originally from Ghana, he had reached a breaking point, and Jacqueline's mental health was not doing much better.

In summary, I don't was more than a shadow of myself, testifies Jacqueline.

Joshua had difficulty finding work in his field in financial consulting. He made a living working as a courier for a company and for Costco.

Jacqueline took care of the children, and they struggled to make ends meet with only one salary. They had to borrow money from family and friends to survive.

Today, Joshua works in an administrative position at Nova Scotia Power. The couple can finally release the pressure and make plans for the future. But not all immigrants do so well.

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The stress caused by moving to a new country and the often immense gap between what immigrants expect from life in Canada and reality can lead to depression, frustration and a loss of self-esteem, believe several specialists.

According to a study published in December by Mental Health Research Canada, new Canadians are almost twice as likely to express concerns about about their ability to feed their families than people born in Canada.

Food insecurity and isolation, far from the support network of the family and friends, have been associated with a greater incidence of mental health problems.

In 2022, more than 437,000 immigrants arrived in Canada. A record 12,500 people have settled in Nova Scotia, according to a study commissioned by the province, and that number could rise as Ottawa hopes to attract 500,000 new arrivals per year starting in 2026.

Originally from Bangladesh, Iqbal Choudhury is a doctoral student at Dalhousie University. His research focuses on the mental health of immigrants who settle in Canada.

According to him, immigrants tend to have better mental health than their counterparts born in Canada.

A report from Statistics Canada and the Canadian Center for Health Information, published in 2019, shows that people who successfully adapt to the Canadian immigration system, particularly economically, are in better health because they are better educated, slightly younger than the average Canadian and because they have to undergo medical examinations.

But over time, Choudhury observes, their mental health deteriorates to that of the general population, a phenomenon described as the “healthy immigrant effect” or the “immigrant paradox “. One potential cause, he says, is stress associated with the acculturation process.

Another factor is diminished esteem self. During the immigration process, these people are evaluated based on their training and professional experience in their country of origin. They therefore hope to obtain an equivalent job in Canada.

But when they arrive, it is often difficult for them to use their previous experience and promote their diplomas, adds the doctoral student.

This has an effect on their aspirations and self-esteem. I would say that it also prevents them from developing a social network with their community in Canada, he says. »When they fail to obtain employment in the labor market, they are ashamed to tell those who remained in their country of origin, as well as their community in Canada.

For Choudhury, mental health is one of the determining factors of social and economic development and progress. If Canada wants to build a productive and healthy future generation of immigrants, he says, it is important that it study the problems immigrants face and take a close look at the resources available to improve their mental health.

It sometimes takes years for immigrants to find a professional position similar to the one they had before, notes a report published in September by the Conference Board of Canada.

If newcomers still believe in the fairy tale of Canada as a land of opportunities, the study shows the emergence of disillusionment, analyzes Daniel Bernhard, CEO of Conference Board, in the report.

After trying Canada for a while, a growing number of immigrants say no, thank you, and leave.

Asked about the issue by CBC News, the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said it offers preventive and non-clinical mental health support to newcomers through third-party organizations that offer settlement services.

It also collaborates with the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health to help meet the mental health needs of newcomers, indicates the same statement .

According to the Conference Board report, almost 15% of immigrants leave Canada within 15 years of obtaining permanent residence. But for some who hope to move elsewhere, uprooting again is not a viable option, particularly if they are older.

Manmeet and Randeep Oberoi sold everything they owned in the Indian state of Punjab to move to Canada with their two children in 2018.

They are both in their fifties and have postgraduate degrees from Indian universities.

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Manmeet and Randeep Oberoi immigrated to Canada in 2018.

Manmeet was a headteacher in an educational establishment and Randeep was a credit advisor in a bank. Manmeet got her teaching certification in Nova Scotia and now works as a substitute teacher, but she can't get a permanent position.

For his part, Randeep has followed several training courses in the banking field since his arrival, but he is still unemployed.

Both expected to Although it might take a while, maybe two years, to find permanent employment, says Randeep.

Even though they all have both Canadian nationals, Randeep has no idea how he could fit into the job market.

For Manmeet, the experience is particularly frustrating, as she enjoys teaching and has a host of specialized skills.

Carmen Celina Moncayo, a psychologist who serves as a manager at the Immigrant Services Association in Nova Scotia, explains that the stress caused by the immigration experience manifests itself in several ways.

People can develop depression, anxiety, sleep problems, eating disorders, irritability, she points out. Distrust of ourselves, distrust of the environment…all the ways in which our body expresses stress.

Originally from Colombia, Moncayo explains that his association teaches newcomers that what they are experiencing is a completely normal reaction to being uprooted.

After more than five years in Nova Scotia, Manmeet Oberoi wonders if the decision to come here was the right one. It's very, very stressful, she said. Sometimes I don't know how to survive here because, if we don't have jobs here, then why do so many people come here?

Based on a text by Vernon Ramesar, CBC News (New window)

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