Promising Practices in Accessing Virtual Mental Health: Supporting Refugees during COVID-19 is a project that started during the pandemic and is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Ontario Ministry of Health.
"The social conditions experienced by recently arrived refugees may expose them to increased stress and subsequently, greater distress, than other Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Refugee newcomers are also typically underserved by mental health services. For most recent refugees, access to health care is through referral by settlement workers, case workers, sponsors, or primary healthcare providers, who often struggle to identify culturally and linguistically appropriate mental healthcare for their clients. With the transition to virtual healthcare, refugees and those referring them may find mental health care even less accessible. As virtual care rapidly expands, service providers are struggling to learn how to identify which services are appropriate and accessible for their clients. By supporting referring service providers, as well as refugee newcomers themselves, we can improve our ability to connect vulnerable newcomers to needed mental health services."
On that page are some useful project backgrounders, along with resources for service providers created by other service providers, and a number of multilingual resources for Newcomers.
Resources for service providers include:
- Online counselling agreement from Windsor Counselling Services (PDF)
- Tips for Zoom meetings from Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS) (PDF)
- Child and youth therapy considerations and decision tree from CCIS (PDF)
- CRR guidelines for video therapy from CCIS (PDF)
- Interpreter guidelines for video calling from CCIS (PDF)
- Interpreter debrief form from CCIS (PDF)
- COVID-19 needs assessment from ISSofBC (PDF)
- The Immigrant and Refugee Mental Health Project (website)
You can also access a webinar recording from March 16, 2021: Reducing barriers to accessing virtual mental health care for recent refugees and other newcomers: "This webinar featured a panel of experts from Ontario and BC discussing access to virtual mental health care for refugees and other newcomers to Canada, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Topics include barriers to access and the strategies service providers can use to overcome them."
They recently released a report I thought would be of interest:
"During the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health services rapidly transitioned to virtual care. Although such services can improve access for underserved populations, they may also present unique challenges, especially for refugee newcomers. This study examined the multidimensional nature of access to virtual mental health (VMH) care for refugee newcomers during the COVID-19 pandemic, using Levesque et al.’s Client-Centered Framework for Assessing Access to Health Care. One hundred and eight structured and semi structured interviews were conducted in four Canadian provinces (8 community leaders, 37 newcomer clients, 63 mental health or service providers or managers). Deductive qualitative analysis, based on the Client-Centered Framework, identified several overarching themes: challenges due to the cost and complexity of using technology; comfort for VMH outside clinical settings; sustainability post-COVID-19; and communication and the therapeutic alliance. Mental health organizations, community organizations, and service providers can improve access to (virtual) mental health care for refugee newcomers by addressing cultural and structural barriers, tailoring services, and offering choice and flexibility to newcomers."