Immigrants having trouble adjusting in small B.C. towns: UBCO study

Credit: UBC Okanagan

They’ve just packed up everything to move to a brand new country – as you can imagine, it’s a life-changing experience for new immigrants.

Finding a sense of belonging plays a huge role in how well a new immigrant’s transition will go, UBC Okanagan (UBCO) associate professor Susana Caxaj said. A new UBCO study has found it’s even harder to adjust for those who’ve moved to a small or rural town.

According to the study that sense of belonging, or lack thereof, can have huge impacts on mental health and well-being.

“In rural areas, pathways for mental illness prevention, treatment, and mental health promotion are complicated by a variety of factors including limited services,” Caxaj said. “And while rural immigrant populations may be more likely to experience mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression, it is sometimes harder for these populations to access help.”

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Another key to feeling welcome, according to the study, is community. In many urban centres there are already established groups of a myriad of cultures, religions and ethnicities with many who have come from the same places as new immigrants moving to Canada. In smaller towns that isn’t the case.

“In the current global climate we’re seeing a lot of rhetoric about racism, and as Canadians we want to believe where we live is an understanding place, but to be honest it’s not always the case,” Caxaj said. “There is a lot to be developed and we need to be asking the question, what are the ingredients needed by immigrant families and what can we give them, so these people have a sense of belonging in their own communities.”

According to the latest census data immigrants and refugees make up 20 per cent of Canada’s population.