Psychology students to discuss mental health with refugee youths

Any adolescent can have a hard time balancing home life and social life, says Ashlyne O’Neil: now imagine the additional stresses facing those adjusting to a new culture.

The doctoral candidate is one of a number of graduate students in psychology who will be discussing mental health with local refugee youths in a workshop Wednesday, March 23, organized by Windsor Women Working with Immigrant Women.

About a dozen teens are expected for the event, which O’Neil takes care to explain is educational in nature: “no services will be administered.” Instead the students, members of the Community Action Group, will focus on three areas:

  • recognizing signs and symptoms of distress;
  • strategies to identify and cope with mental health issues; and
  • accessing available resources for more help when necessary.

The students—besides O’Neil, they include Eva Keatley, Ashley Mlotek, Dragana Ostojic and Kristin Schramer—intend their workshop to be interactive, responding to the issues raised by participants.

“This is a great initiative, as it allows us to apply the skills we have learned as PhD students in psychology, and also provides a service to our community,” O’Neil says.

It’s a sentiment shared by professor Ben Kuo, who is supervising the group and teaches a clinical practicum course in multicultural counselling and psychotherapy with refugees, in which doctoral students in clinical psychology programs provide therapy on campus through the Psychological Services and Research Centre.

“This group is a seriously under-serviced population, not just locally, but across Canada,” says Dr. Kuo. “If people are in distress, they cannot be fully integrated into the fabric of Canadian society.”

Kuo and his students will present on a second occasion, during the April 19 Health Access Day organized by the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County at the Caboto Club.

“These psychoeducational workshops reflect the Department of Psychology’s proactive effort to service the growing needs of the refugee community in the Windsor area,” Kuo says.

Watch for more information in a future edition of DailyNews.