Mental health and wellness with Carmen Celina Moncayo

Carmen Celina Moncayo was a community psychologist in her native Colombia before coming to Canada in 1999. With two Masters’ degrees and a wealth of experience, she now uses her skills as the Community Wellness Program Coordinator at ISANS, where she has worked for over 18 years.

Carmen works with staff and community partners to provide services to newcomers, helping them enhance their ability to manage the stress that comes with moving to a new country. “I learn a lot from clients,” says Carmen. “Every newcomer is a huge source of knowledge and wisdom. It helps me see the world from different perspectives, challenges my assumptions and pushes me to grow.”

She uses the information she learns from the clients to tailor her programs to the needs of the groups of newcomers. “I am checking and listening to what people are saying about current wellness need of support. What are newcomers saying? What are trends that language instructors, settlement, employment staff are observing?

The Newcomer Community Wellness Program:

  • promotes mental health and builds prevention awareness
  • builds resiliency skills and teaches coping methods for newcomers to deal with change
  • offers information and orientation sessions on wellness and mental health issues
  • supports newcomers through bi-weekly drop-in wellness support groups
  • offers specialized groups that meet current and changing needs, as well as short-term individual para-counselling support

“We offer a holistic approach to mental health. It’s not just about talking. We offer participants a series of practices they can learn and practice at home. It helps connect them to the community as well. If they see a yoga session in the community, they may decide to join.”

ISANS does not offer clinical support – for newcomers who need this service, Carmen connects them with public mental health services, community organizations and private practitioners. “It is important to us that we partner with organizations who provide culturally competent services. ISANS is in the process of becoming a trauma-informed service and we try to work with people who work with this framework as well.”

Learn more about the Community Wellness Program.