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Mental Health: A Case Study Between Pakistan and Canada

Updated: Jun 20

Ever since I was a child, I had wanted to leave Pakistan, where I was born and raised, and move to a foreign land. Don't get me wrong. It wasn't that I hated my country or felt that there was nothing to it but reading Enid Blyton's books, especially The Enchanted Wood and The Wishing Chair series, had me longing to escape into nature. I wanted to explore magical lands, fly through the night on a chair with the ocean spread out beneath me and the wind blowing through my hair, and go off on adventures. I yearned for nature and growing up in Karachi, which is essentially deemed to be a concrete jungle, I just couldn't see that happening.

So whenever I heard someone in my friends or family move to North America or Europe, I would be in awe of them. You see, in my mind, their lives were set; they would explore nature, gaze out at the Milky Way and never have to worry about walking in an overcrowded city. But I was so naive to think that way.

In 2023, it was finally my turn to make the move. I packed my bags, said goodbye to my family and landed in Toronto, thinking this was it, my life is finally changing. But you know what I didn't take into account? Mental health.

This is something no one tells you. When you cross oceans, in search of greener pastures, you experience a whole new set of emotions you don't normally associate with a good life. Loneliness, isolation, homesickness and a sense of uncertainty can overpower you to the point where you don't know how to think clearly.

In these moments, you second guess yourself. You wonder if you have what it takes to make it in this country. The fact that finding employment here is an uphill battle and so different than what most of us are used to adds another layer of uncertainty. You spend every penny carefully and the savings being burned also adds to the rising anxiety in your chest.

To get away from my thoughts, I often used to seek refuge in nature. I was delighted to find out that there was a park right behind my home and a creek ran through it. I recall going there in January, a day after we had a significant amount of snowfall. As I reached the creek, I was struck momentarily by its beauty. Right across from me, I could see bare trees covered with ice and there was snow all over the ground. Except for the creek, which was running lazily thanks to low pressure, the area was completely silent. I could see the rocks in the path of the water. These rocks probably acted as stepping stones for people who wanted to get to the other side.

I remember taking a seat on a huge rock that was just a couple of steps behind me. As I sat there, I drank in the scenery and felt a sense of serenity. Since it was winter, the sun would set pretty early. In fact, I could already see the fiery red ball dip beneath one of the trees. I could feel my anxiety ebbing away. All I really wanted to do was to sit there forever. I knew the second I would walk away, the sense of doom would come back. I wouldn't be able to stop thinking about the next job application or how to spend less or what to do to ease my transition into this country.

And here's the thing, no one really tells you just how daunting the journey of immigration can be. In this age where we're all bent on posting pictures on Instagram to show how amazing our lives are, it's as if we're trying to push away this very real reality that most immigrants face. I have family here and I still felt out of place and struggled (and still do!) to call Canada home.

In the early days, I recall waking up with a sense of heaviness inside my chest. As soon as I would wake up, there it was. I figured it would go away with time, and it's lessened considerably over the past couple of months, but I'm unsure of when it will go away.

The good thing is that Canada has a lot of free mental health resources, all designed to help you. And it's not restricted to immigration either. Anyone can reach out to these people and connect with them. They can help you navigate what you're feeling so that you're not constantly in the state of anxiety, wondering what's happening and how to make it better.

I wish and hope that all people struggling with their mental health will get the help they deserve because life is truly something one can enjoy.


Zahrah enjoys each day as it comes while pondering over the meaning of life. She adores writing, doesn't drink tea or coffee and loves helping people.

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