Counsellor Q&A: What it’s like to be a newcomer

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If you’re a newcomer to Canada, you’re not alone. According to Statistics Canada, at least one in five people in Canada is born in another country. Migrating can lead to both challenges and opportunities, and stir up a mix of emotions (e.g. homesickness, happiness, loneliness, excitement, etc.). Kids Help Phone Counsellor Paula knows exactly what it’s like to experience these feelings — she’s a newcomer to Canada herself. Here, she shares her unique insights about taking care of your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being when transitioning to an unfamiliar place.

Can you tell us about yourself and your role at Kids Help Phone?

“My name is Paula and I’ve been a counsellor at Kids Help Phone for just under a year.”

What are some common topics young people are reaching out to us about?

“Young people reach out to us about all sorts of topics! Some of the most common things youth connect with us about include relationships, stress, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and depression.”

Are newcomers to Canada contacting Kids Help Phone?

“Absolutely. Though we’re really hoping to hear from them even more.”

What types of issues are they reaching out about?

“They’re reaching out about many of the same issues we hear about from other young people, except we hear more about their experiences with adjusting to a new country, learning a new language, missing home and making friends.”

Do newcomers face any common challenges when arriving in a new country?

What are they? What can they do to cope?

“Though every newcomer’s experience is completely unique, there are certainly common challenges they may face when arriving here. A lot of the young people we speak with are feeling isolated, struggling with a language barrier, experiencing culture shock, having difficulty keeping up grades at school and experiencing bullying. To cope, newcomers may find talking to someone about these challenges very helpful, along with staying close to their support system.”

What can newcomers do to take care of their mental health and well-being when transitioning to a new country?

“Taking care of our mental health and well-being is crucial at all times, but especially when experiencing something as tough as transitioning into a new country. The good news is there are tons of ways newcomers can take care of their mental health! Some of these include — but are not limited to — staying in touch with people from your support system and communities to tackle any feelings of isolation, developing a routine to create some stability and remembering to be kind and patient with yourself.”

You mentioned you are a newcomer. Can you tell us about your experience? What did you do to take care of your mental and emotional health?

“Yes, I immigrated from South America at 11 years old with my parents and siblings. Taking care of my mental and emotional health at the time was very tough, in part because of the stigma that’s attached to mental health in my culture, but also in part because I lacked resources and support. Eventually, I learned to cope by learning about mental health, creating and expanding my support system, keeping myself busy and reaching out for help.”

What are some tips you would offer newcomers for adjusting to a new country?

“Since this is truly such a unique experience, everyone will eventually find their own ways to adjust into a new country. Some tips that may help, though, could be for newcomers to immerse themselves in activities they genuinely enjoy, find (or create) ways to make themselves feel at home and become involved in their neighbourhoods.”

Do you have any other tips for newcomers and mental health?

“I really want to stress the importance of being patient and kind with yourself. Adjusting into anything new (let alone a new country) can be not just incredibly stressful, but also very frustrating. It’s not uncommon to become frustrated if you notice you may not be learning the language or making friends as quickly as you had hoped to, for example. Any sort of adjustment will naturally take time and it may help to keep this in mind. You’ve got this!”

What’s your favourite way to practice self-care?

“My favourite way to practice self-care at the moment is definitely being out in nature. I try to do that as often as I can.”

Being a newcomer may come with ups and downs. It’s important to try to make connections in your new country and ask for help when you need it. If you’d like someone to talk to, you can always contact Kids Help Phone for support. You can also visit Resources Around Me for community support services near you.

Kids Help Phone would like to thank Counsellor Paula for sharing her story and tips for newcomers to Canada!

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