April 2019- Autism Awareness Month

autism awareness month 2019

Autism Awareness – April 2019

 Facts, Resources and Some Trivia

  1. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder.
  2. 1 in 160 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  3. Globally, the prevalence of ASD is increasing. This may be due to increased awareness and improved diagnostics and reporting.
  4. Available research evidence suggests that there are many factors contributing to ASD, including environmental and genetic factors.
  5. There is conclusive evidence that there is no association between vaccines and ASD.
  6. ASD consists of a range of conditions characterized by varying degree of difficulties in social behaviour, language and communication, and a narrow range of interests.
  7. Although the symptoms that result in a diagnosis of autism can vary significantly between individuals, the shared commonalities of autistic behaviours include communication-emotional-sensory symptoms that impact an individual and how they relate to others.
  8. ASD can affect an individual’s participation in their communities. They may have difficulty in school and in finding employment. Many individuals diagnosed with ASD can function well and live independently, but some have severe impairments and need long-term care and support.
  9. Caring for children with severe ASD is demanding and can be stressful. Families of children with ASD frequently experience high levels of stress and psychosocial difficulties. These may lead to physical and mental health issues, marital difficulties, and economic problems.
  10. Culture plays an important role in how families cope. Service providers need to be aware of the processes of acculturation and ethnic identity and implement culturally appropriate interventions.
  11. People with ASD have a higher likelihood of needing mental health services due to co-occurring conditions such as depression and anxiety. It can be difficult for people with ASD to access appropriate mental health care.
  12. Mental health services for people with ASD can be effective when treatments account for the specific impact of autistic symptoms on mental health and well-being.
  13. Interventions for people with ASD need to be accompanied by support programs for caregivers as a critical component of ASD interventions.
  14. Globally, access to services and support for people with ASD is inadequate. Individuals with ASD can be stigmatized and often experience discrimination and human rights violations.

Did you know:

  • Autism was first recognized as a diagnosable condition in the 1940s.
  • Many people with autism identify strongly with music and many have exceptional musical abilities including extraordinary musical memory and pitch recognition.
  • Many successful interventions for ASD are music-based.
  • The significance of music in the lives of people with ASD has been widely observed and researched.
  • Some of the well-known musicians portrayed as musical savants include the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould and the American composer Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggns.


MMHRC News: New Content in Farsi

New Mental Health Information Sheets in Farsi

We’re excited to announce new additions to our website content!

The updated pages include newly designed and translated mental health information in Farsi.   We’ve also improved the structure so the content is more easily accessible to Farsi speaking communities.

There’s a host of new content:

Ranging from general information about mental health, coping with mental illness, caring for family members with illness, to information on how to live well. We hope the content and the easy access to the materials will make the search and the navigation experience of the site much better for you.

Spread the information and invite colleagues and friends to check out the new content in Farsi.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – November 26, 2018

November 26, 2018

Violence and Abuse against women and girls is a significant Global Health Problem around the world.

It is estimated that 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.  Reports of homicide crimes against women reveal that half of all female victims were killed by their partners or a close family member.

A high proportion of physical and sexual abuse against women and girls is committed by male intimate partners. An intimate partner may be a spouse, a former partner, boyfriend, a date, or a family member.

This violence impacts women and girls’ mental health as well as physical and reproductive health in significant ways. In addition, women with mental health problems, physical illness, alcohol, and drug abuse problems have a high risk of experiencing intimate partner violence and abuse which in turn worsens their conditions leading to an escalating downward spiral of disempowerment and vulnerability.

If untreated, victims may develop psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, impulsivity, or substance abuse. They may also develop physical problems such as sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and childbirth complications, chronic pain, headaches, or debilitating fatigue. If there are risk factors for or actual pre-existing illnesses, they can worsen and lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer.

Children of abused women are at elevated risk of developing mental health problems.

Research shows that male and female children of abused women have an elevated risk of developing mental health problems and higher susceptibility to later-life social problems. Children born to battered women have a higher risk of preterm delivery, low birth-weight, and neonatal death.

When the violence is perpetrated by an intimate partner or a trusted individual such as a family member, the experience of trauma can be severe and prolonged,  creating extra vulnerability and a sense of helplessness leading to a high chance of revictimization.

In cases of chronic violence, such as cases of long-term childhood physical or sexual abuse,  the victims experience chronic trauma that affects their ability to function for many years or their entire lifetime. Abused women and girls are at higher risk of facing social challenges such as unemployment, homelessness, trouble at school or in their workplace.

Violence against women and girls takes many forms:

  • Battering
  • Rape and other forced sexual acts including refusal to use protection
  • Child physical and sexual abuse
  • Child marriage
  • Bullying
  • Cyber-stalking
  • Financial or economic abuse for example by controlling access to finance
  • Female genital mutilation

Risk Factors for gender-based violence

  • Young age
  • Old age and frailty
  • Mental illness
  • Inadequate social networks, lack of family or community support
  • Cultural belief systems that promote or perpetuate gender-inequality
  • Social isolation
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Power imbalances between partners
  • Low educational achievement


Violence against women can occur in all cultures, races, and societies.

Violence against women can occur in all cultures, races, and societies. In all societies, gender inequities are linked to increased violence against women.

Violence against women is a major obstacle to achieving equality, development of civil society, peace, and the fulfillment of human rights.

Marginalized women may be at increased risk of experiencing gender-based violence. They face multiple barriers due to additional factors that exert structural violence against them: discrimination, not being believed, difficulty accessing support, and finding safety.

  • First Nation, Métis and Inuit women and girls experience domestic violence and abuse at significantly higher rates than other women in Canada
  • Immigrant and refugee women who experience intimate partner violence face numerous barriers and challenges to disclosing and reporting abuse, accessing supports and services, and navigating intersecting legal processes and social support systems.
  • Marginalized women may be at higher risk of gender-based abuse and violence.

Some of the risk factors for refugee, immigrant, asylum-seeker, and other marginalized women include:

  • Immigration policies that leave immigrant women without recourse to the judiciary system
  • Temporary foreign worker status
  • Refugee claimants with precarious status
  • Cultural beliefs that discourage disclosing “private” matters
  • Loss of culture or acculturation
  • Loss of family structure due to immigration to a new country
  • Economic insecurity including those resulting from non-recognition of professional/educational credentials
  • Discrimination and racism within the service delivery system
  • Inadequate social networks, lack of family or community support
  • Cultural belief systems that promote or perpetuate gender-inequality
  • Social isolation
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Power imbalances between partners
  • Low educational achievement

Resources for Women and Girls

If you are experiencing intimate partner violence or abuse, reach out to a trusted person, a friend, or a medical professional. You can also find services across Canada online or by phone


Francophone services

Francophone helpline for women 1 877 Fem-aide

Services in English or other languages

Assaulted Women’s Helpline 1-866-863-0511 – TTY 1-866-863-7868

Online resources


Resources for health professional working with victims or survivors of violence


Resources for Community Organizations

Migrant Mothers Project

National Resource Centre on Violence Against Women

A collection of digital stories was created by women who have a precarious immigration status in Canada and their advocates. The stories document the personal struggles faced by immigrant women who do not have citizenship or permanent residence. Each story illustrates how immigration policies impact women’s efforts to support themselves and their families while striving to build their lives in Canada.


Resources for Policy

Reports on the mechanisms through which Canadian Immigration Policies can increase the risk of violence and abuse for women:


The European Psychiatric Association Guidelines on Cultural Competency – Summary

The European Psychiatric Association Guidelines on Cultural Competency

EPA guidance on cultural competence training. Schouler-Ocak, M., Graef-Calliess, I. T., Tarricone, I., Qureshi, A., Kastrup, M. C., & Bhugra, D. (2015). European Psychiatry, 30(3), 431-440. doi:10.1016/j.eurpsy.2015.01.012


What is Cultural Competency?

  • Cultural Competency as a skillset “that a clinician can employ to understand the cultural values, attitudes and behaviors of patients, especially those whose cultural background differs from that of the mental health professional”
  • Cultural Competence includes an awareness of the impact of the psychiatrists’ own ethno-cultural identity on their patients
  • Cultural Competence is a concept that captures the capacity to provide appropriate care for diverse patients, overcoming socio-cultural differences and other systemic challenges to reduce disparities with regard to mental health care provision
  • Cultural Competency is about respecting differences and making sure that these are bridgeable in order that they do not negatively impact upon the diagnostic and therapeutic process


Why is Cultural Competency needed?

  • Cultural Competence is necessary in clinical practice whereby the psychiatrist sees each patient in the context of the patient’s culture as well as their own cultural values and prejudices
  • mental health specialists regularly come into contact with patients from different cultural backgrounds
  • immigrants’ health, including mental health, is seriously affected by their trajectory and/or the social conditions in which they live in the receiving country
  • the ability to understand and be aware of cultural factors in the therapeutic interaction between the therapist and the patient
  • culture plays an important role in the symptom presentation of distress and illness
  • idiom of distress in which patients communicate with psychiatrists can vary considerably from culture to culture and many languages do not have equivalent words to describe various mental disorders
  • minority patients are not the only ones who have differing cultures. All patients and staff are shaped by their own cultures with respect to ethnicity, religion, professional world etc., which can be very different from those of the patients.
  • patients are not the only ones with culture. institutions have their own cultures as well which can produce barriers of various kinds, and minority groups may well face strong barriers to health care access
  • patients who are illegal or undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers, or refugees have a “fragile existence” which raises additional issues about clinical management best addressed by culturally competent therapists.


How does Cultural Competence play out in clinical management?

These are some of the culturally adapted interventions suggested:

  • the cultural values of the immigrant patient should be incorporated into therapy
  • if possible immigrant patients can be paired with therapists of the same cultural or ethnic group
  • mental health interventions should be easily accessible and targeted to immigrant patients’ circumstances
  • support resources available within an immigrant patient’s community, extended family members, and tradition should all be incorporated into therapy interventions
  • Interventions conducted in patients’ native or primary language
  • the incorporation of psychologically trained interpreters or culture broker into the treatment process
  • review the cultural formulation interview in DSM-5 in which a major effort was made to recognize the influence of cultural factors on psychiatric symptoms and disease entities


What are the benefits of Cultural Competency?

  • culturally knowledgeable therapists influence changes in attitudes and behaviors in patients
  • therapists who show multicultural competence receive higher ratings than therapists who do not show multicultural competence
  • Cultural Competence training presented to psychiatrists in the context of clinical practice and with organizational support can lead to progress made in decreasing ethnic disparities in care


What are some suggested methods of developing Cultural Competency?

  • using cases and case note reviews
  • participant observation
  • cultural consultation where members of staff present cases and experts can advise them on specific cultural issues
  • Interactive lectures and role play along with small group work can help staff understand the most effective ways of doing things and engaging patients
  • listening carefully to the patient
  • eliciting the psychopathology in a culturally appropriate manner
  • assessing needs and suggesting changes in management while looking at the outcome
  • therapist acknowledging their own personal prejudices and try and deal with them
  • avoiding assumptions and stereotyping to develop higher levels of empathy will produce better therapeutic engagement
  • cultural empathy can transcend language barriers as most of the communication occurs at a nonverbal level
  • Outcome indicators may be one way forward for measuring cultural sensitivity and Cultural Competency in an organization


In conclusion:

“Competent treatment of minority patients requires that mental health professionals are open to understanding the similarities and differences between more traditional and modern Western approaches. It is important to understand and emphasize that Cultural Competence is not a static phenomenon but a developmental process, which represents a continuum. It must be remembered that Cultural Competency should be tempered with what has been termed ‘‘cultural humility. Attaining a level of cultural proficiency indicates a level of Cultural Competence but this is not absolute and will need ongoing development.” And “individual learning is not enough to guarantee a sensitive approach to diversity at the organizational level”, “institutional Cultural Competence requires not only the recognition of the barriers that exist to quality care at a systemic, organizational, and institutional level but also the elimination of these”.


E-Library : Canadian Women’s Health Network

The E-Library of the the Canadian Women’s Health Network is a comprehensive bilingual collection of women’s health publications and resources including resources on multicultural health and mental health. The health database gives access to over 11,000 documents, reviews, projects and organizations covering a wide range of information on women’s health and women’s lives.

You can access the library at:


Podcast: Towards Culture-Conscious Mental Health Services in Saskatchewan

Dr. Sadeq Rahimi provides a review of Saskatchewan’s state of legal policy and strategies. He concludes that given the rapid pace of migration-induced demographic changes in Saskatchewan, there is an urgent need for government policies that address mental health requirements of a culturally diverse population. He states that there is an absence of cultural awareness in Saskatchewan policies and identifies an acute need for culturally competent services and expertise across the province. He suggests a reformulation of health policies and regulations in a culture-conscious fashion.