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Finding Support as a Newcomer to Canada (For Youth)

The teenage years are a critical period of change, marked by hormonal changes, puberty, and cognitive and emotional changes that can significantly increase anxiety. During this time, young people gradually shift their focus from family to peers. Their desire for acceptance and belonging within their peer groups can intensify their anxiety. 

Immigrant youth in Canada not only face these universal challenges but also have to navigate the added complexities of assimilating into a new culture. Understanding these transitions and the additional obstacles immigrant youth encounter is vital for comprehending their mental health. 

Pressure to “fit in”

Today’s youth are confronted with numerous challenges that impact their mental and emotional well-being, primarily fueled by their deep-seated need for inclusion and recognition by their peers. The pressure to adhere to peer norms often leaves them feeling inadequate and isolated. For immigrant youth, these difficulties are exacerbated by extra hurdles such as navigating a new system, cultural differences, peer pressures, and language barriers, making their experiences even more challenging. 

Immigrant youth often feel stuck between wanting to fit in with their friends and respecting their family’s cultural traditions. This struggle makes it hard for them to feel fully accepted by their peers, especially when their cultural values differ from those of their friends. Trying to keep their cultural identity while also being part of a new community creates a tough balancing act. This conflict can lead to stress and make it difficult for them to find their place. They face unique challenges in trying to satisfy both their family’s expectations and their own desire to blend in and make friends in a new environment. 

Academic-related anxiety

Navigating a new educational system can be particularly difficult for immigrant youth, especially for those with language differences. This can complicate their ability to understand lessons, complete assignments, and participate in class discussions, thereby adding to the stress of academic achievement. The dual pressures of keeping up academically and fitting in socially amplify their feelings of alienation and inadequacy. 

Financial Anxiety

Financial strains significantly affect immigrant families, particularly when parents struggle to find employment that matches their skills and experience due to the lack of “Canadian experience.” This often results in underemployment or unstable job situations for parents, adding financial pressure on the entire family. Immigrant youth feel this burden deeply, as their families may need to move frequently in search of better opportunities, disrupting their social lives and education. Each move entails adapting to new schools and making new friends, introducing added layers of stress and uncertainty, which can negatively impact their academic performance and mental health. 

If you are a teen experiencing any of the anxieties or stressors mentioned above, our Newcomers’ Health and Well-Being program offers their advice:  

  1. It’s normal to feel anxious amid these changes; you are already doing amazing by navigating through them. 
  2. Let’s Share! Discussing your concern with your family or a trusted friend can be very beneficial. 
  3. Ask your school! Take advantage of the resources your school offers. Many schools and school boards (including universities) have connections with organizations that provide support and assistance. Talk to your teacher or school guidance counsellor to get started. 
  4. Seek community support, whether it’s through religious or cultural groups or local support networks. 
  5. Finding your support system is crucial to managing and overcoming the challenges you endure as a youth in a new country. 

Looking for support? Check out these free programs available for youth living in York Region and South Simcoe: 

  • The Newcomers’ Health & Wellbeing Program offers unique support of youth/adult newcomers aged 12+, providing them with support and resources to navigate their new lives in Canada.
  • The Mobile Youth Walk-In Clinic (MOBYSS) is a safe space to talk to a medical or mental health professional in a warm, welcoming, and friendly environment. Our mobile walk-in clinic is staffed by a nurse practitioner, youth mental health worker, and peer support specialist. Our services are 100% free and confidential with staff who are caring and non-judgmental. A health card is not required and there are no referral requirements.
  • Youth Wellness offers individual short-term supportive counselling, case management, groups, and workshops for youth aged 12 to 25 in school and community settings. 
Explore Youth Programs at CMHA
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