Promising Practices in Accessing Virtual Mental Health: Supporting Refugees during COVID-19
The goal of this project is to identify key concerns and promising practices with respect to delivery of virtual mental health services, and to develop guidelines for referring refugee clients to these services. The COVID pandemic can affect immigrant and refugee mental health in multiple ways: 1) anxiety about the illness itself; 2) challenges due public health measures, including social isolation, and one’s ability to enact these measures; 3) economic stress due to loss or reduction of employment; and 4) decreased or altered access to mental health treatments and medications for those already receiving services. While many on-line mental health services have become available or expanded services, new questions are arising in the settlement sector around access and barriers to these services and considerations when referring. Immigrants may find access to linguistically and culturally appropriate virtual mental health services difficult to find and navigate. Refugees may face even greater barriers relative to other immigrants. Vulnerable populations such as refugees are more likely to be living in crowded conditions that can make physical distancing difficult and may have greater difficulty accessing or understanding public health directives; they are more likely to be experiencing economic hardship; and they may be less likely to have access to or be comfortable using virtual technologies. Through interviews with settlement workers, refugee newcomers, mental health practitioners and virtual mental health experts, we will develop guidelines around WHEN to refer WHICH clients to WHICH virtual mental health services; HOW to refer and document virtual mental health services; and WHAT are key considerations in referring and recommending virtual mental health services to refugee clients. Although developed for refugees, these recommendations will highlight barriers faced by many vulnerable populations and sharing promising practices will support better access for all.