Hi Everyone,

Last year was another one for the books. The optimism brought by the vaccine rollout and the expectation of transitioning to normalcy was met with new variants of concern, disease progression, and record levels of mental health illness and burnout.
Did you know that mental illness is a leading cause of disability in Canada and that by the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, 1 in 2 have—or have had—a mental illness?

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada was already in the midst of a mental health crisis before COVID-19. Now, data from Angus Reid Institute shows that mental health has become even more precarious: half of Canadians reported a worsening of their mental health, with one in ten saying it has worsened a lot.

Some groups have been more vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic than others. A CAMH study found that women, people who lost their jobs, those who are worried about their finances, people with children at home, and young people were more likely than others to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression during this unprecedented times. Other groups include people with disabilities, people with dementia, immigrants and refugees, workers in low-wage or precarious employment, and people who reside in crowded or communal housing, such as shelters.
Similarly, data from Statistics Canada indicates that:
  • Youth have experienced the greatest declines in mental health since the pandemic began.
  • Those already experiencing poor mental health before COVID-19 were impacted even more by the pandemic – including those from the LGBTQ community.
  • Visible minority groups were more likely than Whites to report poor mental health (27.8% vs. 22.9%) and symptoms consistent with "moderate" or "severe" generalized anxiety disorder (30.0% vs. 24.2%).
  • Those reporting poor mental are up to 4 times more likely to report increased substance use since the pandemic began.
  • Recent immigrants were more likely to report symptoms consistent with moderate to severe generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) more often (30%) than established immigrant (21%) or Canadian-born participants (26%)
Social isolation, loneliness, stress, increased risk or exposure to abuse and systemic racism, school closures, and online learning exacerbated the emotional difficulties experienced among young people and newcomers while adapting to their new life. These changes posed greater harm to their overall mental health, explains the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

As CAMH puts it, the pandemic has both magnified and added to this crisis and highlighted how crucial mental health promotion and care are to our overall well-being. 

The Orientation to Ontario (O2O) and International Student Connect (ISC) Team is committed to raising awareness about the pressing needs of international students and newcomers in Ontario, and provide them with the supports they need to thrive and successfully settle in their new community.

With this purpose in mind, we have developed new resources that explore various mental health topics and provide expert comments and recommendations. We hope that you and your clients find them useful as we continue to navigate the new normal.

The O2O and ISC Team

O2O and ISC launch first bilingual
app for newcomers to Ontario

Watch a video about ArriveON!
ArriveON is a free, bilingual, mobile app that helps immigrants, refugees and international students in Ontario find reliable information and services to kickstart their settlement journey.

From finding a job or a place to live, to learning English or French or accessing health care, ArriveON has everything newcomers need to get started on their new community.
The information provided is based on the content of the O2O Workbook and grouped into six sections: Getting to Know Canada and Ontario, Living in your New Community, Education and Training, Working and Business, Money and Personal Finances, People and the Environment.
Each section has several topics that give information for the whole province. Users can explore these topics, bookmark the ones that are relevant to them, and find nearby programs and services using the geolocation feature without ever needing to create an account or disclose personal information. Furthermore, the information can be saved to the user’s device and accessed later on without an Internet connection.
Most sections have a Settlement Plan that summarizes the main settlement tasks, and some important questions under the heading Things to Think About. These questions help users think about the choices they need to make during their settlement process.
Designed by COSTI’s Orientation to Ontario (O2O) Program, and funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Province of Ontario, ArriveON also connects newcomers to the O2O Chatbot, relevant government websites and phone numbers, and the Welcome to Canada guide published by IRCC. It also allows users to call 911, 211, and ConnexOntario’s mental health services with just one click!


Mental Health & Self-Care Strategies

Arming yourself with knowledge is one of the most important actions you can take to take care of your mental health and support others to reach their full potential.

That is why, in collaboration with the Family and Mental Health Services of COSTI, we have developed a series of Mental Health webinars. These webinars will support your work with newcomers and international students in Ontario and they include reliable expert comments, tips and self-care strategies. Click below to watch them today!
  1. Adapting to change: Addressing culture shock, separation and lossThis webinar will help you understand how culture shock, separation, and loss impact mental health. It will also enhance your skills and teach you coping strategies to deal with emotional distress.
  2. Self-care strategies to overcome stress: This webinar will help you develop the ability to recognize signs of distress within yourself and outline helpful self-care strategies.
  3. Improve your wellbeing: Exploring how physical activity leads to better mental health: This webinar will improve your understanding of how physical activity improves your mental health, and provide you with practical information on how to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
  4. Managing financial stress: This webinar will make you better informed about how financial insecurity and financial trauma impact mental health. It will also help you develop strategies to cope with financial stress and trauma.
  5. Coping with loneliness in a new world: After watching this webinar, you will be better informed about the emotional impact of loneliness, and also be aware of coping strategies available to you to overcome it.

NEW WEBINAR: Volunteering
& Making Community Connections

Volunteers play an important role in maintaining community well-being and contributing to the overall Canadian economy. For newcomers and international students, volunteering is also a great way to gain relevant work experience, get familiar with the Canadian workplace culture, explore career options, and make professional connections.

Statistics Canada recently released an article that sheds light on the important contributions and dedication of volunteers. Below is a summary of the findings of the study, which is based on data from the 2018 General Social Survey on Giving, Volunteering and Participating (GSS-GVP).
  • About 8 in 10 Canadians volunteered their time in 2018
  • Volunteers' annual volunteering time commitments equalled more than 2.5 million full-time jobs in 2018
  • Older Canadians less likely to volunteer but contribute more hours
  • Millennial and Baby Boomer women had higher rates of volunteering than men within the same generations
  • Event organization and fundraising most common types of formal volunteering 
Watch our new webinar Volunteering & Making Community Connections to learn how volunteering can provide immigrants with many benefits as they adjust to their new life and fast-track their first employment opportunity in Canada.

Click below to watch it today!

What is Orientation to Ontario (O2O)?

Orientation to Ontario (O2O) is a bilingual program designed to ease the transition of newcomers by providing access to standardized information about settling in Ontario. It is coordinated by COSTI, and funded by IRCC and the Government of Ontario.
Information is provided through customized workshops at over 30 Service Delivery Agencies (SDAs) across the province. O2O offers helpful online resources: a workbook, webinars, fact sheets on various settlement topics, and a chatbot.

Check out the O2O Workbook in English and French, and learn more about the program here.

What is International Student Connect (ISC)?

International Student Connect (ISC) is a bilingual project that provides settlement support and orientation to international students pursuing post-secondary education in Ontario. It is coordinated by COSTI and funded by the Government of Ontario.

Our goal is to help international students integrate successfully should they choose to settle in Ontario after graduation. Information is provided through one to two hours Let’s Connect sessions or One-on-One sessions at Colleges and Universities.

Check out the ISC Handbook and learn more about the project here.

We want to hear from you!


Your feedback is important to us. Send us an email to or and let us know what information you would like to receive in the next issue of the O2O & ISC Newsletter.
Copyright © 2021 Orientation to Ontario & International Student Connect. All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

COSTI Immigrant Services
2301 Keele Street, Unit 102
Toronto, ON
M6N 3Z9

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
International Student Connect · 2301 Keele Street · Unit 102 · Toronto, On M6N 3Z9 · Canada

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp