Mental Health & Wellness

Settlement Stress and Mental Health Problems

What are Mental Health Problems?

Sometimes settlement stress puts us out of balance, which can create mental health problems. Mental health problems affect people’s emotions, thoughts and actions, and cause difficulties in everyday activities, whether at school, work or in relationships.

Different cultures use different expressions to describe mental health problems. Expressions like “nervous breakdown”, “suffering from nerves”, “broken heart” or “falling heart” are a few examples. People also identify their mental health problems in different physical ways, like chest pain or tightness, feeling paralyzed, tension or feeling numb.

Many conditions affect mental well-being and can create mental health problems. The most common mental health problems for immigrants are:

  • Issues related to adjusting to a new culture and environment
  • Isolation - being away from family and not having friends in the new place. Being unable to communicate because of language barriers. Having feelings of not being accepted
  • Always being worried about family members left behind in their original country or in refugee camps
  • Being exposed to traumatic events, such as war or natural disasters
  • Change in your social economic status, and not being able to work in the job you are trained for
  • Socio-economic hardships. Trying to provide financial support to loves ones living overseas
  • Not being aware of services, and facing constant difficulties in accessing services
  • Racism and discrimination
  • Family members experiencing mental health problems and not knowing what to do. Being worried about their security and that they will never get better
  • Domestic violence and abuse
  • Addictions
  • Weather and climate changes

Sometimes mental health problems may have already existed in our home countries. The conditions in the list above might make these problems worse.

There are many different kinds of mental health problems and illnesses. They range from more common mental health problems and illnesses, like anxiety and depression, to less common problems and illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

People with mental health problems and illness can get better, and can live a hopeful and contributing life, even where there are ongoing limitations. With the right mental health care, family and community support, people can find and use their own internal resources and strengths to live a satisfying life.


Warning Signs of Mental Health Problems

Symptoms of distress can affect various areas of your life and they can increase with time. You might find that stress increases old mental health problems. It is important to pay attention to signs that you may need a little more help from other people.

Here are some of the most commons signs of mental health problems that indicate you or your loved ones may need help. The earlier you find help for these issues the better:

  • difficulty sleeping and having low energy during the day
  • loss of interest in activities or people who you are in contact with; becoming quiet and withdrawn
  • changes in eating habits (eating more, or less, than usual)
  • getting angry easily, or having severe mood swings
  • continued feelings of sadness, grieving or worry
  • trouble with concentration and memory
  • frequent stomach aches or headaches
  • drinking or using drugs to calm yourself or to make it easier to face difficult situations
  • missing days from school or work because of drinking or using drugs
  • being in debt and having family problems because of gambling


Self- Assessment tool

Read through the following list. Are any of the sentences true for you? If yes, have they been going on for more than a few weeks?

If so, you may need professional help.

  • Most of the time I feel restless and unable to sit still
  • I drink alcohol or get high on drugs to deal with stress
  • I feel tired all of the time, no matter how much I sleep
  • I have missed days from school or work because of drinking or using drugs
  • I find myself thinking a lot about death and suicide
  • I am having problems concentrating, thinking, remembering, or making decisions
  • If I am honest with myself, I know that I am using too many drugs or too much alcohol
  • I feel worthless or guilty most of the time. I feel that there is no hope or anything to look forward to
  • Most of my friends are people I drink or have drugs with
  • I am anxious a lot of time
  • I depend on medication to get me through each day. I buy this at the pharmacy and it is not prescribed by a health care provider

Source: Centre for Addictions and Mental Health

You don’t have to suffer alone. Help is available! Read more about support for mental health concerns and addictions.


Useful Links

You can find a checklist in different languages here -  open the fact sheet “Asking for help when things are not right”

For more information about mental health problems in different languages visit: