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Fulfilling a dream, or a need, of moving to Canada can be filled with mixed emotions and feelings.

On the one hand, there is the excitement around building a new life, raising a family, starting a new career, studying and many other reasons for coming to this country.

But, those emotions can also be wrapped up with fears, questions, concerns, and an overall lack of knowledge about the place you are calling home.

These are normal feelings and can be overcome with time and patience.

Most people call into question new beginnings and, although moving to a new country might be bigger in scale than other new beginnings, it poses many of the same mental health and wellbeing questions. Questions can range from simple things like getting a driver’s license or acquiring a Social Insurance Number, or more involved issues like navigating the healthcare system or securing appropriate accommodation. And that’s just the first few weeks.

When it comes to the immigrant population, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) says overall, newly arrived Canadians are better equipped and have better mental health than the Canadian-born population. Refugees are generally at higher risk for mental health issues than immigrants.

Home life in Canada and mental health

Outside of the workplace, the Canadian government has set up settlement services that can offer support in areas such as:

  • Providing information about your community
  • Connecting you with local people who can help with your transition
  • Providing non-clinical mental health and well-being support
  • Referring you to community health services

You can find a settlement service office in your area here.

Separate from its employer guidelines, the MHCC offers something called The Immigrant and Refugee Mental Health Project, which provides online training tools and resources around settlement, and access to social and health service professionals working with immigrants and refugees.

In extreme cases of refugees who have fled persecution or terror, for example, the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture provides confidential assessments with psychologist and family doctors, has crisis intervention, family counselling, and more. Their website can be reached here.

Financial life in Canada and mental health

Feeling safe and secure in your new home means securing your financial wellbeing. It’s one thing to come to a country perhaps without speaking the language or having a network of people to assist. It’s another to stress over the financial implications of your decisions. The good news for new Canadians is that the federal government provides certain benefits to help offset costs and help ease your transition into the Canadian financial system.

The Canada Child Benefit is a service offered to all Canadians (new and old) to help offset the cost of raising kids. If you have children under the age of 18 who live with you, you can collect a payment for them. This can make a big difference to you and the life of your children upon entering the country.

Another benefit is the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) credit. The credit is a tax-free payment that is meant to help low and moderate income Canadians offset taxes paid on goods and services. Also, each province and territory offer different benefits for their citizens. You can find the different offerings here.

Most banks and financial service institutions, like Scotiabank’s StartRight™ program, offer services to support immigrants and newcomers to Canada set up and maintain financial services. You can find out information about no-fee international money transfers, preferred package chequing accounts, safety deposit boxes, credit cards, and specialized mortgages for newcomers to Canada.

Before you get to that stage, you should know that you have certain rights as a newcomer about opening a bank account. For example, even people who don’t have a job, don’t have money to put in the account right away, and have been bankrupt before; have the right to open a bank account. There are also certain things to consider prior to opening an account such as what ID you might need (if you are not yet a citizen). The government of Canada offers information on these topics.

Work life in Canada

There are many reasons to come to Canada. One popular and very important one is for work. Whether you are a labourer, an executive or somewhere in between, navigating work-life balance, understanding cultural nuances, and staying mentally healthy after such an important transition, demands attention.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) is tasked with helping employers create and maintain healthy workplaces. It has created a voluntary set of standards and guidelines that are there to help you as you enter the workforce. The vision behind it is: “A workplace that promotes workers’ psychological well-being and allows no harm to worker mental health in negligent, reckless, or international ways.”

Don’t feel ashamed to ask your manager or supervisor about the support your new company offers, especially in a stressful transition. Even before accepting your job, you can make inquiries about company policies and resources that will assist you should you need the extra mental health help.

Other things to consider that will make your job-hunting (or beginning) smooth and less stressful is preparation. You’ll need things like a Social Insurance Number and to see if your employer, or new adopted country, recognizes your education or qualifications.

Your new life in Canada

All the tips and tricks for maintaining your mental health when adopting Canada as your new home require patience, but also effort on your part to ensure a smooth transition.

It can be quite jarring to be in a new environment, but it is certainly normal to feel anxious and even confused in your new home. Take the effort to reach out to organizations like cultural centres, or places like the YMCA Newcomer Information Centre, or the Centre for Immigrant and Community Services, for example.

Organizations like these can provide lessons about Canadian culture, customs, beliefs, and values. Taking that effort and meeting new people will make that connection easier, and help you build relationships with others who may be experiencing what you are facing.

Also, stay connected with loved ones from your home. Support can come from many places, and a friendly, familiar face can be just what the doctor ordered to stay rooted in the things that still feel comfortable. Don’t forget that mental and physical health go hand-in-hand. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, by joining a gym or taking part in organized sports, or finding people to take walks with, or any number of activities that suit you, goes a long way in maintaining a healthy mindset as well.

People who settle in larger cities may have more opportunities and resources at their disposal, although organizations are spread out throughout the country to aid new Canadians. For example, in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, the Canadian Mental Health Association provides a list of resources for people experiencing mental health challenges in that area, but also has 330 community locations nationwide.

Overall, settling to Canada, like most things in life, is a journey. You may be experiencing the cold weather for the first time, or new faces and cultures, or simply you miss your home and question your decision to relocate. In some cases relocation is not even a choice if you are fleeing persecution. In any event, Canada is a welcoming, multicultural country that has the resources, desire, and social infrastructure to not only welcome new Canadians, but also help them thrive under difficult circumstances.

Remember that by coming to a new country and settling here, you’ve taken your first step on that journey. That’s the biggest step you’ll take.

Getting started in Canada may not always be easy, but figuring out your finances and navigating the Canadian banking system should be. Scotiabank is committed to easing the financial challenges newcomers face when they move to Canada. We do that by providing solutions and advice to help newcomers achieve their financial goals in the first days and weeks in Canada.

We offer advisors who speak your language, to credit products that don’t exclude you just because you don’t have a credit score yet, and we help you navigate the challenges that are unique to your situation. While we can’t lower the price of moving, we can help you to be able to afford it.

Ready to get your finances on track for your future? Come in and speak to a Scotiabank advisor.

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