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Mental Health Toolkit for Refugees and Refugee Claimants

Posted on: December 3, 2021

This online toolkit curated by the BC Refugee Hub includes a short guide to mental health, mental illness, trauma, and resources available to those working with refugees and refugee claimants, along with services and supports available for refugees and refugee claimants.

Key Definitions:

What is mental health?

Mental health is the state of your psychological and emotional well-being. It is a necessary resource for living a healthy life and a main factor in overall health.

Good mental health allows one to feel, think, and act in ways that help you enjoy life and cope with its challenges. The signs and/or symptoms include but not limited to.

  • Feeling in control of your life and personal decisions
  • Being able to cope with life’s challenges and stresses
  • Functioning well mentally, such as being able to focus while at work
  • Feeling physically healthy and getting enough sleep
  • Feeling a sense of belonging in your community such as a school, church, neighborhood etc.

It is important to note that it does not mean the same thing as mental illness however, poor mental health can lead to mental and physical illness. The signs of poor mental health include but not limited to.

  • Feeling sad, down, or low mood
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Finding it difficult to control your emotions

Mental illness

Mental illness is the reduced ability for a person to function effectively over a prolonged period because of.

  • significant levels of distress
  • changes in thinking, mood, or behaviour
  • feelings of isolation, loneliness, and sadness
  • the feeling of being disconnected from people and activities


Trauma is both the experience of, and a response to, an overwhelmingly negative event or series of events, such as interpersonal violence, personal loss, war, or natural disaster. In the context of violence, trauma can be acute (resulting from a single event) or complex (resulting from repeated experiences of interpersonal and/or systemic violence).

According to research carried out by The University of British Columbia, University of Northern British Columbia and Western University, Trauma can also result from what doesn’t happen, for example when systems fail to recognize and respond to people’s violence experiences. More on this can be found here.

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