Danni Zhang’s MA Thesis Proposal

Title: “When East Meets West: Older Chinese Immigrants in Canada and Their Perceptions and Experiences of Mental Health and Mental Illness”

Supervisor: Dr. Laura Hurd
Committee Members: Dr. Moss Norman, Dr. Sabrina Wong

Abstract: In this study, I propose to explore older Chinese immigrants’ perceptions and experiences of mental health and mental illness. Studies have found that the mental health of new immigrants’ is often negatively impacted by acculturative stress arising from language difficulties, social isolation, changes in work and family roles, the absence of supportive networks, and new social norms. Older Chinese immigrants are at higher risk of mental health issues and mental illness compared to the general Canadian population. Although the barriers to obtaining help for mental health issues and mental illness have been well documented, little is known about the lived mental health and illness experiences of older Chinese immigrants. Using symbolic interactionism as my theoretical framework, I will conduct semi-structured interviews with 10 – 15 Chinese immigrants aged 65+. I will seek to understand the meanings that participants give to mental health as well as to mental illness and how those meanings underscore their everyday health and illness practices and experiences. I will ask them about how their attitudes towards mental health and mental illness have been shaped by their earlier life socialization as well as their experiences of immigration, what they think promotes mental health or leads to mental illness, and what they do to maintain their mental health. The study will build on the existing research and provide important insights into Chinese immigrants’ lived experiences of mental health, mental illness, and help-seeking behaviour.