News & Updates


OPA Condemns Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hatred

June 14, 2021

Madiha and Salman Afzaal, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna, and her paternal grandmother, Talat, 74, were killed when a driver ran them over in a pick-up truck on Sunday, June 6, 2021 in London, Ontario. The couple’s nine-year-old son was taken to hospital with serious injuries. The family had been out for their nightly walk after dinner when a driver decided to murder them in a hate-fuelled Islamophobic attack.
 
Islamophobia is not new to Canada. It is embedded in this country’s colonial legacy, policies, media and political discourse. It is a lived experience for many in this nation, especially those who are visibly Muslim such as Muslim women who choose to wear hijab or those who are mistaken for being Muslim such as Sikh men who don a turban. The bullying, intimidation, harassment, threats to people and places of worship and outright banning of the hijab, niqab and other religious symbols for employees in the public sector in Quebec has resulted in deadly violence. There have been numerous incidents of hatred against Muslims with fatal consequences including the murder of a mosque volunteer in Ontario last year and the Quebec City mosque massacre during evening prayers which left 6 Muslim men dead on January 29, 2017.
 
Anti-Muslim hatred cannot be de-coupled from violence being perpetrated against Indigenous, Black, Asian and other racialized and marginalized populations. Islamophobia is yet another manifestation of systemic oppression and colonization.
 
The Ontario Psychiatric Association strongly condemns Islamophobia, anti-Muslim hatred and all forms of racial and religious discrimination. We also call for more work to dismantle the systems that perpetuate this level of violence against these populations and advocate for an expansion of culturally tailored resources, cultural safety and greater compassion in our profession.

OPA Champions Equitable Access to Mental Health Care for Diverse Populations

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 7, 2021

As psychiatrists and healthcare professionals, the OPA champions equitable access to mental health support and services. Our Ontario population is diverse, with 29.1% of the population being immigrants, 3 in 10 being of visible minority backgrounds, and over 3.8 million people whose mother tongue is other than English or French. The Mental Health Commission of Canada has noted that many immigrants, refugees, and ethnoracial groups in Canada continue to encounter barriers towards seeking and obtaining psychiatric help, including challenges in provider-patient interactions, service accessibility, and language barriers. In Ontario, data has specifically highlighted disparities based on ethnic differences in mental illness severity and service utilization.

One of the Mental Health Commission of Canada's strategic directions includes a focus on improving mental health services and supports for immigrant, refugees, ethnocultural and racialized groups (IRER). A concerted effort is needed across social and healthcare sectors to address the underlying racism, discrimination, and other structural inequities impacting on the health and well-being of the diverse populations we serve.

Cultural competence and cultural safety are paramount to meeting these challenges at clinical, organizational, and systemic levels. This includes promoting training in anti-oppression, anti-racism, cultural competence, and cultural safety; enacting healthcare policies that promote equitable access and care; and developing mental health practices, programs, and services that are responsive to the cultural and linguistic needs of the diverse communities, including ethnospecific programs.

Some longstanding cultural and linguistic-specific mental health services have been developed for various culturally diverse populations, with some numbering in the hundreds of thousands in Ontario. These collaborative, multidisciplinary clinics have served their respective communities by using a team-based approach and engaging in hospital-community partnerships. As an efficient and exemplary model of care, these best practices need to be protected, promoted, and adapted for other diverse populations, tailored for their specific needs and grounded in their local communities.

The OPA has become aware of expressed concerns from communities that some of these clinics in the province have already been closed or are in the process of being restructured or shut down. As these types of programs are uniquely designed to deliver services to underserved populations, they are also the most vulnerable to restructuring changes and cuts due to their relative lack of visibility, support, and active championship. With race-based violence on the rise, the loss of safe spaces and vital culturally-concordant treatment supports for marginalized populations will only further compound suffering.

From a system perspective grounded in equity, diversity, and inclusion principles, the OPA advocates for continuous commitment, investment, and support for culturally-competent programs throughout the province, as we must work in solidarity towards addressing the mental health needs of all Ontarians.

References

Chiu, M., Amartey, A., Wang, X., & Kurdyak, P. (2018). Ethnic Differences in Mental Health Status and Service Utilization: A Population-Based Study in Ontario, Canada. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 63(7), 481-491.

Chiu, M., Lebenbaum, M., Newman, A. M., Zaheer, J., & Kurdyak, P. (2016). Ethnic Differences in Mental Illness Severity: A Population-Based Study of Chinese and South Asian Patients in Ontario, Canada. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 77(9), e1108-e1116.

Diamond, L., Izquierdo, K., Canfield, D., Matsoukas, K., & Gany, F. (2019). A Systematic Review of the Impact of Patient-Physician Non-English Language Concordance on Quality of Care and Outcomes. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 34(8), 1591-1606.

Fung, K., & Guzder, J. (2018). Canadian Immigrant Mental Health. In D. Bhugra & A. Ventriglio (Eds.), Mental Health and Illness in Migration: Mental Health and Illness Worldwide. Singapore: Springer.

Fung KP, Lo HT, Srivastava R, Andermann L. Organizational Cultural Competence Consultation to a Mental Health Institution.  Transcultural Psychiatry, 2012; 49(2): 165-184.

Kirmayer L, Fung K, Rousseau C, Lo HT, Menzies P, Guzder J, Ganesan S, Andermann L, McKenzie K. (2020). Guidelines for Training in Cultural Psychiatry. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2016). The Case for Diversity: Building the Case to Improve Mental Health Services for Immigrant, Refugee, Ethno-cultural and Racialized Populations. Ottawa, ON: Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Statistics Canada. (2017). An increasingly diverse linguistic profile: Corrected data from the 2016 Census. Ottawa, Ontario. 

https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/170817/dq170817a-eng.htm

Statistics Canada. (2017). Focus on Geography Series, 2016 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-404-X2016001. Ottawa, Ontario. Data products, 2016 Census. https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/as-sa/fogs-spg/Facts-PR-Eng.cfm?TOPIC=7&LANG=Eng&GK=PR&GC=35

Yousif, N. (2021, March 25). Long-standing Portuguese mental health clinic is set to close, raising alarms for the future of language-specific services in Toronto. The Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/03/25/long-standing-portuguese-mental-health-clinic-is-set-to-close-raising-alarms-for-the-future-of-language-specific-services-in-toronto.html


OPA Denounces Anti-Asian Racism

THURSDAY, APRIL 1, 2021

In the face of brazen acts of violence against North Americans of Asian descent including the horrific shootings in Atlanta, the OPA strongly denounces anti-Asian racism and discrimination in all of its forms.

While there has been a long history of anti-Asian racism and systemic inequities dating back to the founding of Canada as a nation, it has often been masked by the model minority myth. With the pandemic, Asian communities have been blamed and treated as foreigners. Anti-Asian discrimination and hate crimes have dramatically increased, including violent attacks against women and the elderly.

In 2020, a national survey found 50% of Chinese Canadians were insulted because of the pandemic, and 43% were personally threatened or intimidated. The Chinese Canadian National Council of Toronto documented 1150 cases of racist attacks from March 10, 2020 to February 28, 2021 reported through web portals, with about 40% of the cases being from Ontario. Alarmingly, about 11% of the attacks involved violent assault or unwanted physical contact and about 10% involved being coughed on or spat at.

We recognize the tremendous destructive impact that racism has on the safety, mental health, and wellbeing of Asian individuals and communities. This is especially concerning in the context of unmet mental health needs for Asian Canadian populations, including poor access, language barriers and insufficient services, leading to significant mental health disparities in Ontario.

As psychiatrists and mental health professionals, the OPA stands in solidarity with Asian communities. We call for anti-stigma advocacy and initiatives, individually and collectively; support for culturally competent mental health care for diverse communities; and an end to all forms of xenophobia, racism, and discrimination.


Bell Let's Talk Day

THURSDAY, JANUARY 28, 2021

Dr. Renata M. Villela, OPA President, and Dr. Javeed Sukhera, OPA Past President, participated in a media briefing about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health. Portions were featured on CP24 at: https://www.cp24.com/video?clipId=2126513 and in The Globe and Mail here.

Dr. Yusra Ahmad, OPA Council Member, was invited to take over @TransplantCTV's Twitter and IG accounts that day to share her innovative work on Mindfully Muslim.


Ontario Psychiatric Association Anti-Racism Statement

MONDAY, JUNE 8, 2020

The Ontario Psychiatric Association (OPA) unequivocally condemns all forms of anti-Black Racism and stands in solidarity with those standing up and speaking up about the injustices faced by Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour in Ontario, Canada, and the Global Community. Psychiatrists have an important role to play in addressing the disproportionate impact of violence and coercion on patients of colour. We must not only acknowledge and reckon with the impact of systemic racism on our most vulnerable and marginalized patients, but we must also rise up and do the work to dismantle oppressive structures and work towards a more just and equitable healthcare system. The OPA is committed to addressing the issue of equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging through words and deeds as we move forward as a profession and as a community. 

On behalf of the OPA Council,

Javeed Sukhera
OPA President, March 2019 - June 2020


PREVIOUS POSTS

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Introducing Dr. Javeed Sukhera – OPA 2019 President

The Ontario Psychiatric Association is delighted to welcome Dr. Javeed Sukhera to the position of President for 2019.

"Dr. Javeed Sukhera is Interim Chair and Assistant Professor, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada where he is also the Senior Designate Physician Lead for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at London Health Sciences Centre. He completed his honours bachelor of science degree at Trinity College at the University of Toronto and medical degree at the Medical School for International Health (MSIH), an innovative collaboration between Columbia University and Ben-Gurion University in Israel that provides a four-year MD program with an emphasis on global health. He completed his residency in psychiatry and fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Rochester."

Click here to read more.


Shortage of Psychiatrists Contributing to Crisis in Access to Mental Health Treatment

Report from the Coalition of Ontario Psychiatrists reveals alarming inequity and a growing gap in patient access to psychiatric care

Toronto – August 8, 2018 – An alarming new report finds that access to mental health services is being severely impacted by the shortage of Psychiatrists in Ontario. Released today from the Ontario Psychiatrists, the report titled Ontario Needs Psychiatrists: Ontario psychiatry shortage contributing to Canada’s mental health crisis, finds that there is a currently a shortage of 200 psychiatrists across Ontario, and that if action isn’t taken soon the shortfall will grow by 75% by 2030.

Click here to read more.


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