Background

Youth of diverse cultures in Vancouver have a lack of appropriate mental health programs and services. Services such as counselling eating disorders, self esteem, and body image are available at South Vancouver community centres; however, cultural-specific therapy for youth is not widely available. Through our research, it appears that common mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and addition are being overlooked by the more highly publicized, yet less prevalent, youth gang violence.

Within the South Asian community, there is both a lack of awareness as well as a stigma surrounding mental health issues. Cultural disparity, language differences, and generation-cultural gaps can act as further barriers against seeking help for mental health issues. This community has additional risk factors for mental health and substance use issues: recent immigration increases incidence of mental health issues, the normalization of alcohol use among males increases the likelihood of substance abuse, andgang violence and drug trafficking further exacerbate mental health issues.

While not youth specific, Vancouver Community Mental Health Services has established a "Multicultural Mental Health Liaison Program" which aims to increase the accessibility and acceptability of community mental health services to the South Asian, Chinese, Latin American, Vietnamese, and First Nations communities, by providing each with their own multicultural worker. The workers provide services in the areas of education, consultation, service brokerage and coordination, and direct clinical services. This mental health initiative is one of the few in the Lower Mainland that serves a wide variety of cultures. It is a program we can use as a model while at the same time, offering a more "youth specific" approach.

There appears to be a lack of cultural-specific youth mental health services not only in British Columbia, but also globally. Through our research, we've been in touch with mental health professionals around the world. Baldev Mutta, who started the Punjabi Health Centre in Ontario, knew of no cultural mental health programs for youth in neither Ontario nor BC. Further, Dr. Nisha Dogra, a senior lecturer in child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Leicester, knew of no developing services specifically for youth of South Asian, Vietnamese, or Chinese descent. She also informed us that although Australia has a high Vietnamese population, there were no specific addiction/mental health services available for Vietnamese youth in the continent.