Professors question assumptions in immigrant mental health research

picture of Michaela Hynie and Yvonne Bohr

Migration is a complex phenomenon that can have important consequence on mental health, say two York professors who will talk about some of the assumptions made in conducting research on immigrant mental health at the upcoming Multicultural Mental Health Promotion.

Michaela HynieMichaela Hynie (left), associate director of the York Institute for Health Research and a York psychology professor, and Yvonne Bohr, director of York’s LaMarsh Centre for Child & Youth Research and a psychology professor, will draw on their own research to discuss assumptions in immigrant mental health research.

Multicultural Mental Health Promotion will take place Wednesday, Feb. 15, from noon to 2pm, at 519 York Research Tower, Keele campus.

Following opening remarks by Harvey Skinner, dean of York’s Faculty of Health, and Nazilla Khanlou, co-director of the Ontario Multicultural Health Applied Research Network, Hynie and Bohr will conduct an interactive roundtable discussion. In addition, they will also make use of narrated- and video-based case studies to help frame the discussion.

Yvonne BohrRight: Yvonne Bohr

As part of the discussion they will explore how the phenomenon and experiences of migration can differ along a number of dimensions, and how these differences can impact the mental health of migrant families. Participants will be invited to join the discussion with their own experiences in research and practice regarding assumptions, their alternatives and how they shape the understanding of mental health among migrant populations.

Some of the assumptions Bohr and Hynie will examine include those about the geographic space inhabited by migrant families, the source and adaptiveness of coping strategies, and the causes of behaviour and well-being.

“For some families, their migration experience might better be described as transnational, with family members repeatedly spending extended periods of time in more than one country,” says Bohr.

Coping strategies, she says, need to be considered in context. That context includes time/era, geographic location, availability of structural supports and culture. Change in any of these dimensions can render a formerly adaptive strategy less adaptive.

As for adaptiveness, “we often assume that differences between migrant and non-migrant families in the receiving country are due to acculturation or the migration process, but we often do not compare migrant families to non-migrant families in the country of origin and so cannot be certain about causes,” says Hynie.

The event is sponsored by the Ontario Multicultural Health Applied Research Network.

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For more information, visit the Ontario Multicultural Health Applied Research Network website.