Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 106, Issue 2, pp e72–e78 | Cite as

A scoping review of mental health issues and concerns among immigrant and refugee youth in Canada: Looking back, moving forward

  • Sepali GurugeEmail author
  • Hissan Butt
Scoping Review



Youth comprise a significant portion of the total immigrant population in Canada. Immigrant and refugee youth often have different migration trajectories and experiences, which can result in different mental health outcomes. Research is emerging in this area, but study findings have not yet been consolidated.

Research Question

What is known from the existing literature about mental health issues and concerns among immigrant and refugee youth in Canada?


We searched Embase, Health Star, Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and Social Science Abstracts databases for the period 1990–2013 for Canadian studies related to the mental health of youth born outside Canada. Seventeen studies met inclusion criteria.


Determinants of mental illness included pre-migration experiences, number of years since immigration to Canada, post-migration family and school environment, in- and out-group problems, discrimination, and lack of equitable access to health care. Only a few common categories of mental illness were identified, and the burden of mental illness was shared differently across gender and immigration status, with female youth experiencing more mental health problems than male youth. Some studies identified fewer emotional and behavioural problems among refugee youth; others reported higher rates of psychopathology among refugee youth compared with their Canadian-born provincial counterparts. Pre-migration experiences and the kinds of trauma experienced were important for refugee youth’s mental health. Findings also indicated the importance of family involvement, school settings as points of care and services, and in terms of timing, focusing on the first year of arrival in Canada.

Practice Implications

Professionals must work across health, social, and settlement sectors to address the various pre- and post-migration determinants of mental health and illness, and provide more timely and effective services based on how and when these determinants affect different groups of youth.

Key Words

Canada immigrant youth mental health mental illness refugee youth scoping review 



Les jeunes représentent une part importante de la population immigrante au Canada. Les jeunes immigrants et réfugiés ont souvent des trajectoires et des expériences migratoires différentes, ce qui peut entraîner des différences dans leurs résultats de santé mentale. La recherche en ce domaine commence à émerger, mais les constatations des études n’ont pas encore été regroupées.

Question de Recherche

Que dit la littérature actuelle sur les problèmes et les préoccupations de santé mentale des jeunes immigrants et réfugiés au Canada?


Nous avons interrogé les bases de données Embase, Health Star, Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO et Social Sciences Abstracts pour la période de 1990 à 2013 afin de répertorier les études canadiennes portant sur la santé mentale des jeunes nés à l’extérieur du Canada. Dix-sept études ont répondu à nos critères d’inclusion.


Les déterminants de la maladie mentale étaient les expériences pré-migratoires, le nombre d’années depuis l’immigration au Canada, le milieu familial et scolaire post-migration, les problèmes intra- et extra-groupe, la discrimination et le manque d’accès équitable aux soins de santé. Seul un petit nombre de catégories courantes de maladies mentales ont été répertoriées, et le fardeau de la maladie mentale était inégalement réparti selon le sexe et le statut d’immigration, les jeunes filles éprouvant davantage de troubles de santé mentale que les jeunes garçons. Certaines études font état d’un moins grand nombre de problèmes émotionnels et comportementaux chez les jeunes réfugiés; d’autres observent des taux supérieurs de psychopathologies chez les jeunes réfugiés comparativement à leurs homologues provinciaux nés au Canada. Les expériences prémigratoires et les types de traumatismes vécus sont importants pour la santé mentale des jeunes réfugiés. Les constatations indiquent aussi l’importance de l’implication familiale, du milieu scolaire en tant que point d’intervention et de service, et de la première année suivant l’arrivée au Canada.


Les professionnels doivent travailler à la fois dans le secteur sociosanitaire et avec les services d’établissement pour aborder les divers déterminants pré- et post-migratoires de la santé et de la maladie mentales; ils doivent également offrir des services plus rapides et plus efficaces, fondés sur la façon dont ces déterminants affectent différents groupes de jeunes et sur le moment où ils les affectent.

Mots Clés

Canada jeunes immigrants santé mentale maladie mentale; jeunes réfugiés étude de champ 


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Daphne Cockwell School of NursingRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Division of UrologyThe Hospital for Sick ChildrenTorontoCanada

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