Impact of COVID-19 on the Mental Health of Newcomer, Immigrant, and Refugee Students

Gathering our community input to understand the experience of newcomer, immigrant and refugee students in post-secondary education throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created many more challenges for post-secondary students. The transition to online learning has been very difficult, consequently taking a toll on student’s mental health. In Canada, a significant proportion of young people are enrolled in post-secondary education, a challenging feat in itself. While the additional struggles students are facing have been voiced, the supports to address the issues have not ensued or are very limited.

Students are struggling with social isolation and losing their social support groups. Mandatory physical distancing and social gathering restrictions have resulted in many students feeling disconnected with their campuses, unable to access the support and services that were once easily available.

The Newcomer Students’ Association is seeking to engage students from post-secondary institutions across Canada in three roundtable discussions to better understand their experiences during COVID-19 and how the pandemic has impacted their well-being and mental health.

Project Objectives:

  1. Understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on immigrant and refugee students’ well-being and mental health.
  2. Define the root causes of mental health issues experienced by immigrant and refugee students.
  3. Identify challenges and barriers facing this segment when accessing and seeking mental health support.
  4. Provide recommendations on how post-secondary institutions can address and respond to the needs and challenges faced by this segment, and propose effective prevention strategies.

All three roundtable discussions will be held virtually via Zoom. The three dates are as follows:

April 6, 2021 From 5:00 – 6:30 pm EST

April 12, 2021 From 6:00 – 7:30 pm EST

April 20, 2021 From 5:00 – 6:30 pm EST

Are you a newcomer, immigrant, or refugee student in post-secondary whose mental health and academic education has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic? Share your experiences with us – sign up link below!

What compelled us to conduct this project?

  1. OCUFA 2020 Study: COVID-19 and the Impact on University Life and Education
    • 62% of students feel that COVID-19 has had an overall negative impact on the quality of university education in Ontario
    • Students are feeling overwhelmed and struggling with social isolation, additional stress, and lack of institutional support
    • 55% of students were concerned about their mental health due to the changes and challenges from COVID-19
  2. Canadian Alliance of Student Associations survey: Students are Still Worried: COVID-19 and Post Secondary Education
    • 70% of students report feeling stressed, anxious, or isolated
    • 82% worry about their futures after the pandemic
    • Students report feeling increased amounts of stress regarding their health, finances, and future
    • Majority of students do not believe online learning offers the same value, learning experience, or support as in-class learning
    • 30% of students report difficulty in accessing their classes
  3. A summary report released by Youth Network – Canadian Council for Youth Refugees, stated the following about youth mental health and academics:
    • Losing language development
    • Cannot access school or community supports, lost support of peers and mentors
    • Lack of access to computers or the internet
    • Lack of computer literacy making online school more difficult
    • Increased potential for family conflict (especially families living in small spaces)

Our plan with the input gathered:

  1. Analyze data from community input and compile into visuals and infographic posters.
  2. Publish a policy brief with recommendations to enhance immigrant students experiences in post-secondary education.

Resources Available

  1. Government of Canada’s compilation of resources for mental health support and well-being of newcomers to Canada.
  2. Canadian Mental Health Association: list of organization information that can offer mental health support and services.
  3. McMaster study examining student’s mental health and COVID-19 suggestions:
    • Talk with your friends, family members, or classmates daily! We need social support, even virtual connections are helpful to reduce feeling lonely and isolated.
    • Try to figure out a routine; consisting of exercise, mealtimes and a good sleep schedule that works for you, and stick to it. Sleep is very helpful to combat and cope with stress.
    • Reach out to your support network and school or community resources when you need help, you are not alone.
  4. COVID-19 Student Support Network – a space for post-secondary students to share their thoughts and feelings towards the uncertainty and stress around online learning.
  5. Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health: COVID-19 Resources
    • Comprehensive list of websites to learn more about COVID-19, and organizations containing mental health and COVID-19 resources.