Earlier this week the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) held their 4th Annual Health Equity Summit at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. CMHA Ontario policy analyst Zahra Ismail delivered a presentation on the mental health of South Asian communities, focusing on their unique experiences and social determinants of health.
The summit aimed to create the foundations of a report, “A South Asian Health Strategy in Ontario,” which includes equitable access to health care, South Asian specific health care facilities, improved standards of care, and the provision of culturally appropriate health services. Areas of focus included mental health, sexual health, chronic disease, and health care governance.
The South Asian population experience significant inequity affecting their mental health.
The South Asian population is the largest and one of the fastest growing racialized groups in Ontario, yet they experience significant inequity affecting their mental health. Barriers to supports and services include stigma around mental health and/or addiction issues and lack of access to linguistically and culturally appropriate care.
The summit addressed the needs of vulnerable South Asian groups including women, youth and older adults. It explored their experiences of migration, low-income, lack of health insurance, inadequate housing, and discrimination in employment and education. The summit featured speakers and representatives from diverse social service organizations, such as CMHA, Women’s Health in Women’s Hands, the Local Health Integration Network, and the South Asian Women’s Centre.
The summit brought together 80 attendees, including health and social service providers, academics, policy makers, funders, and community members, to engage in meaningful discussions throughout the day. Breakout sessions enabled cross-sectoral collaboration around the strategy and explored promising practices around training, communication, outreach, policy, research, and resources.
The summit was a volunteer-run event sponsored by the Punjabi Community Health Services, CAMH, Across Boundaries, Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, South Asian Legal Clinic, and Care4Nurses.
CMHA Ontario continues to raise awareness, undertake research, develop tools and support policies that advance equity for people with lived experience of mental health and/or addiction issues. CMHA branches provide services and resources to support newcomers, including The Opening Doors Project at CMHA Toronto.