People in the local Sri Lanka
n Tamil community are increasingly willing to accept help in addressing psychological problems, particularly if they were born in Canada
, says Amal Joseph, a YouthLink outreach worker.
`It`s a different story than five years ago.`
Joseph, who works in the mid-Scarborough neighbourhood of Eglinton East-Kennedy Park and was previously based in Malvern, stressed the improvement isn`t a drastic one.
He spends a lot of his time, he said, convincing Tamil-Canadian residents he won`t reveal or share information they consider shameful. People feel `they will be looked upon in a different way` if they tell anyone about mental health concerns or learning disabilities, Joseph said.
In January the agency started a needs assessment using questionnaires and focus groups for Tamil youth, parents and social-service providers, a project Joseph said is overdue.
Its findings in June will reflect a unique range of pressures on the mental health of community members.
They start with a culture that is `shame-based` and fears talking about such issues openly, Kamalesan Muthulingam, a YouthLink counsellor, said during an interview to highlight the study during Mental Health Week.
Decades of civil war in Sri Lanka have left members of Scarborough families sharing the effects of post-traumatic stress, and where `multi-generational stress` can affect the Canadian-born children of those who survived, Muthulingam said.
Even the end of the war in 2009, months in which many civilians were interned or killed, produced depression in the community, many of whose members were suffering after-effects from the India
n Ocean Tsunami.
People who witnessed the disaster, which wiped out whole villages in Sri Lanka, `didn`t know how to explain how they felt,` and Tamils in Canada often didn`t know what happened to missing family members, Joseph said.
`Questions unanswered play a huge role in the community,` he said. `They`ve come to the point where depression is part of their life, and I think that needs to change.`
But while first-generation Tamil-Canadians keep things inside, their children often struggle with their identity, and the cultural gap between the generations is growing, said Muthulingam. `Youth don`t get it at all. The older generation are extremely unhappy about that.`
Tamil youth and families can be seen at walk-in counselling offered Wednesdays afternoons by YouthLink in its office at 747 Warden Ave. People are happy to meet counsellors who speak their language, but for the large Tamil community such counsellors can be counted `on your fingers,` Joseph said.
Muthulingam said he hopes the study will not only get a message out that `there are needs and there is help` but that Scarborough`s Tamils can help themselves by recruiting more social services professionals.
An engineer, Muthulingam went through his own family issues, becoming a counsellor after his mothers
_day.jsp' class=black>mother was diagnosed as bipolar. He did not want such problems in the community swept under the carpet, he said. `I wanted to think out of the box.`