February 12, 2022

By Kuwarjeet Singh Arora, Contributing Editor

Photo Source: ICEF Monitor

Publisher’s Note: The Distress Centres of Greater Toronto provides free, confidential, multilingual and non-judgmental support and referrals for people in crisis/suicidal situations, people with mental health issues, and for those individuals who are socially and psychologically isolated. All programs are supported by trained volunteers supported by professional staff. 24/7 Helpline can be reached at: Mississauga/Brampton: 905-459-7777 Caledon: 1-877-298-5444 and Toronto: 416-408-4357.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, international students are being pushed to the point where mounting pressures have led to an escalation of deaths by suicide, not only in Brampton, but all over Canada.

According to a National College Health Assessment survey (Fall 2021), 14% of students surveyed have you told someone that you were going to commit suicide, or that they might do it? From the survey, 2.7% actually did attempt suicide in the past 12 months.

Some families in South Asia save for decades in order to have one of their children come to Canada and acquire a post-secondary education. However, once these international students arrive in Brampton (and Canada), they experience many challenges settling and adopting to their new environment. The challenges include financially pressures (primarily for housing and food security), mental health (depression and stress) and language barriers.

International students are more vulnerable to mental health issues in this COVID-19 pandemic, given that they are further isolated from potential support systems.

“The rise in suicides is very concerning,” says Harkirat Singh, Brampton Councillor for Wards 9 & 10. “I’ve personally gone to many funerals myself for international students, who unfortunately have taken their own life. There is a dire need for more support for these students.”

Among those ages 10 to 29, suicide is the second most common cause of death, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

One Voice Canada’s report on The Realities for International Students: Evidenced Challenges raises concern of the problems arising from Canada’s international student program among Indian international students. They advise that International student suicides have become a disturbing trend in Canada.

“We have seen a recent spike in suicides by international students in Canada, especially Punjabis/South Asians. Besides that, the number of heart attacks is also on the rise. For years, students suffered from mental health issues, but with covid-19 the situation became worse,” confirms Jaspreet Singh from the International Sikh Student Association.

However, mental health issues are not the only cause of problems. There are many other factors that contribute to mental health problems as well.

Singh states, “Including unfair behavior by colleges/professors, fraudulent employers or job agencies, as well as immigration lawyers/counselors that bait the job market and charge thousands of dollars just to find a job in restaurants.”

There are a lot of international students from South Asia in Canada, but there is a gap in resources.

“It’s not a communication gap, but a gap in culture,” says Singh.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can get help by calling the 24/7 Helpline at: Mississauga/Brampton: 905-459-7777 Caledon: 1-877-298-5444 and Toronto: 416-408-4357.