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Reading of the Week: Coming to Canada – Immigration and Mental Illness

From the Editor

Last week, when in Halifax, I went to Pier 21, a museum that now stands where more than a million immigrants entered this country by ship. The exhibits describe the aspirations, the experiences, and the struggles of these people – our people. As a nation of immigrants, here’s an important question to ask: what impact does immigration have on mental health?

Different studies show different things of the immigrant experience. On the one hand, some studies find that immigrants (and refugees) have higher rates of psychosis (including a recent Canadian paper by Anderson et al.); on the other hand, other studies show a “healthy migrant effect” – that is, immigrants have lower rates of mental illness overall.

The August issue of The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry has a thoughtful paper that considers immigration and mental illness. The authors tread on familiar ground – there is a rich body of work in this area, but they offer a Canadian perspective by looking at people in Montreal, and they consider mental health utilization and service satisfaction.

Pier 21: A boat, a pier, and the beginning of the new beginning for hundreds of thousands – but are there implications for mental illness?

Spoiler alert: immigrants tended to have lower rates of depression and alcohol dependence than the general population.

DG

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Reading of the Week: First Episode Psychosis and Access – The Anderson-Kurdyak Paper, and More

From the Editor

“If your son or daughter had cancer or diabetes, do you think it would be reasonable for them to wait? I don’t think it’s any different for mental illness.”

Access. It’s one of the biggest problems with mental health services.

How big is the access problem? What can be done about it?

This week, we consider a new paper looking at access and first episode psychosis. Dr. Paul Kurdyak, a CAMH psychiatrist and a program lead with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, made the above comment to the CBC when discussing this new paper. In it, Kelly Anderson and Dr. Kurdyak find that 40% of patients didn’t receive physician follow-up in the month after diagnosis. Imagine – tying back to Dr. Kurdyak’s comment – if 40% of young patients with leukemia didn’t have physician follow-up in a month after their cancer diagnosis.

We also look at the discussion around a new federal-provincial accord with an op ed written by Michael Wilson, the chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada – particularly timely as the ministers of health met this week with an eye on a new accord.

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Reading of the Week: Immigration and Psychosis (and Canada)

Meta-analytic reviews suggest that international migrants have a two to threefold increased risk of psychosis compared with the host population, and the level of risk varies by country of origin and host country. This increased risk may persist into the second and third generations. Incidence rates are not typically found to be elevated in the country of origin; therefore it is believed that the migratory or postmigration experience may play a role in the etiology.

The migration-related emergence of psychotics disorders is a potential concern in Canada, which receives 250,000 new immigrates and refugees each year. However, there is a notable lack of current epidemiological information on the incidence of psychosis among these groups.

So begins a new paper that seeks to answer a basic question: are there certain migrant groups more at risk of psychotic disorders in Canada?

This week’s Reading: “Incidence of psychotic disorders among first-generation immigrants and refugees in Ontario” by Kelly K. Anderson et al., which was published in the CMAJ in June.

Kelly K. Anderson

Of course, studying the incidence of psychotic disorders in immigrant populations isn’t exactly novel – there is a rich literature in this field. And the Canadian angle isn’t novel either – as the paper points out, previous studies have considered B.C. hospital admission rates for schizophrenia in European migrants in the early 1900s.

But this paper aims to consider recent data and Canadian data – relevant in a country that takes in 250,000 migrants a year. The paper focuses on Ontario, where first generation migrants constitute almost a third of the population.

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