Mental health. Still a taboo? The fragility of low income elderly in the “Little Portugal”

Most people believe that mental disorders are rare and “happen to someone else”. But contrary to popular belief, and according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, mental illnesses are common and widespread. Statistics show that one in five Canadians will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives. Mental illness affects men and women, children, young people and the elderly, and is found in all ethnic-cultural and socioeconomic groups in our society.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Commission, it is estimated that 1.2 million children and young people in Canada are affected by mental illness – less than 20% will receive adequate treatment. At age 25, approximately 20% of Canadians will have developed a mental illness.


With the aging of the population, a new situation has been manifesting itself in the area of mental health. The elderly population, known as the “baby boomer”, is affected not only by body weakness but, often, by loneliness or family abuse.
The MHCC Mental Health Strategy for Canada identifies mental health for the elderly as a priority and leads a series of projects to help ensure that older Canadians get the support they need to achieve and maintain their best possible mental health and do not experience the problem of stigma.

Mental health problems and illnesses among older adults are likely to affect all families in Canada in one way or another. As people age, they face overlapping stigma: the stigma of living with a mental health problem or illness, as well as the stigma of being older.


Official Canadian government data indicates that one in five people in Canada has a mental health problem at some point in their lives.

Although official data indicate a worrying number of people affected with mental health problems, only about 30% seek help. Some people are unaware that they have a problem and many are unaware that help is available or unable to access due to barriers such as language and transportation.

Others simply do not seek help because of the stigma (prejudice and discrimination) associated with mental health problems. If they feel ashamed, they fear that they will be judged and misunderstood.

However, it is important to know that there are services that can help. And the sooner someone gets help, the less chance the problem will come back or get worse. Talk to your family doctor.

In crisis? Don’t know who to turn to? Call 911. Service agents will put you in touch with people who can help you in an emergency. Another option is to go to the hospital closest to your home and explain your problem.
More information:


The aging of the Portuguese community, Little Portugal, in several cities in Canada, is a reality and, understandably, the elderly often resist the idea of moving to the suburbs, where housing costs are lower, but where they would also miss the language, culture and friendships in the neighborhood of “Little Portugal”.
Portuguese immigrants have built communities institutionally complete with companies and services, providing them with everything they need to live in the Portuguese language and in a Portuguese cultural way.

Many of our elderly people, however, face isolation in their retirement years or even in their own homes, made up in some cases by age, poor health, reduced mobility, poverty, and even abuse.

Like Portuguese immigrants, in general, older people in Canada worked hard to support their families, build strong communities and help grow the country’s economy. While many hope to close the chapter on their professional lives, for some, especially low-income seniors – retirement can be a daunting prospect, with the potential for insecurity and feelings of isolation. There are countless situations in which we may need more immediate support and, often, the difficulty of the language makes us feel insecure and unprotected. In Canada, there are charities that offer help in your native language.

For the case of Portuguese, here are some examples (Toronto):

Victim Services of Toronto – Tel .: 416 808 7066
Days and Hours: For 24 hours – 7 days a week.
Abrigo Center – Tel .: 416 534 3434
1645 Dufferin St, M6H 3L9 – Toronto
Working Women Center – Tel .: 416 532 2824
533 A Gladstone Ave, M6H 3J1 – Toronto

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