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IMPACT SERIES: This Agency Invests in the Mental Well-being of Newcomers

Categories // Strong Communities

IMPACT SERIES: This Agency Invests in the Mental Well-being of Newcomers

Workplaces across Peel Region have officially kicked off their campaigns for the season, and with that, we have another incredible agency that's making waves across the community to share with you! This longstanding agency is all about helping newcomers settle into their new lives within our community.

Drumroll, please, for this incredible agency!

Catholic Crosscultural Services (CCS) has been around since 1954. They serve all newcomers regardless of race, religion, age, country of origin, immigration status or political affiliation, and provice culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate services for anyone who needs them, with a staff that speaks over 30 languages!

Here’s what Communications Manager Ramya Ramanathan has to tell you:

"Elizabeth and her family moved to Canada from Nigeria in September 2014, prepared with enough savings to keep them going while they found employment and settled in. What the 41-year-old didn’t expect was that their savings would run out, that her husband would have to move back home for a while to take care of his ailing mother leaving her alone to manage the four kids, or they would end up living in a basement apartment unsuitable for her family’s needs.

Not wanting to move to a shelter or become dependent on welfare, Elizabeth made an appointment with CCS Peel Region’s Settlement Counsellor Nirupa Rasiah to discuss housing options. Says Nirupa, “When I met Elizabeth, I realized she could use more help than just filling the application for subsidized housing or tips on finding employment. She seemed overwhelmed with the situation and I asked her if she would like to speak with a counsellor. I then connected her with Thakur Lamsal, who works with CCS Newcomer Mental Health Services.

Elizabeth’s initial response was one of surprise.  “I thought: I don’t have mental health problems why are you sending me here? But it has really helped me! I realized that seventy percent of the headache came from me. Being faced with so many problems at the same time got me tense and I was shouting at my children.”

Listening to Elizabeth’s situation, Thakur provided her with resources on parenting including information on social, emotional and physical growth and development of adolescents, how to engage them in fruitful/productive activities, using rewards and punishments creatively with youth, and community resources for youth. In addition, he reminded her to pay attention to her own communication style as parents work as role models for children.

 “I find that newcomers have their own solutions, it just needs to get triggered,” says Thakur. “I did not visit her house or family, she herself had that strength and skill that we were able to enhance with some counselling. With very simple actions, big problems can be addressed; just to have tools to deal with various life circumstances is very important. Often, it is not the situation that makes us feel sad, it’s our perception of the situation”

What would Elizabeth’s advice be to other newcomers?

“As soon as they drop their bags, they should take classes to learn to deal with mental stress because when they know the issues that lie ahead, it can help them manage whatever they pass through,” she says.

“I have spent three years in Canada and I am not settled yet, but the support I received has helped me relax and feel like I have a family in Canada. I was relieved to have someone to talk to.  I have now been here at my new place of work for six months and I joke, I smile even while my problems are still pushing.”

Counselling has helped Elizabeth manage stress better. “My problems are still there, but I am not carrying them the way I used to,” says Elizabeth. “The way I talk to my children has changed, I can hear them. They can now hear me.” Since then, Elizabeth has also introduced her 15-year-old son to Thakur for some counselling support."

The CCS Mental Health program is largely funded by United Way. The CCS Wellness Fair 2017 was also funded by United Way. To check it out, click here.

 When you give to United Way, you allow CCS to run their programs across the community! 

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