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This article was published 23/3/2017 (1675 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A group of clinical psychologists in Winnipeg is trying to improve the mental health of an increasingly diverse city.
The WinnLove.ca campaign offers tips on social media to help people adjust to diversity and generate civic pride.
"Talk more with people you don’t know," is one example. The tips are based on psychological research and, if practised, would help Winnipeggers feel better about where they live, improve community engagement and their mental health, Rehman Abdulrehman, a clinical psychologist, said.
"The more people interact with different kinds of people, the less discriminatory they become," said Abdulrehman, who immigrated to Canada with his family as a child and is part of the team of psychologists that came up with the public mental health campaign.
One of the goals of WinnLove is to help Winnipeggers get along, be more culturally inclusive and take pride in that, Abdulrehman said. They’re posting a tip every month and encouraging people to act on it and share their experiences on social media.
The idea is to get people reaching out to those who seem different and get them to know and understand each other and it’s timely.
A growing number of asylum seekers fleeing anti-immigrant sentiment and policies in the U.S. with the election of President Donald Trump are arriving in Winnipeg.
In the last month, there have been two rallies in Winnipeg with anti-Islamaphobia, anti-fascists clashing with a handful of opponents — most recently outside city hall with a group that called themselves the Soldiers of Odin.
An international anti-immigrant street patrol group that formed in 2015, the Soldiers of Odin were a response to the influx of migrants in Finland at the time. A Manitoba chapter of the group appeared on Facebook in the past year but none of the three men listed as administrators responded to media inquiries from the Free Press.
Changing people’s minds and opening their hearts to their neighbours starts with people stepping out of their comfort zone and talking to each other, Abdulrehman said. He pointed to Internet videos sharing the stories of militant white supremacists in the U.S. who let go of long-held racism. They all had one thing in common, he said.
"They started to have these discussions," Abdulrehman said. "They were able to understand another world view.
"There are people who just don’t want to change, don’t want to let information in," the psychologist admitted. And there are those who don’t want to believe that racism exists or that it should be discussed.
"If we’re complacent, then change doesn’t happen," he said. "If we’re mindful and active, then we can make small changes that lead to revolutionary ones... It seems like common sense, but there’s science behind it. If we understand the rationale for why we do things, we’re more likely to do them.
"We’re not trying to see Winnipeg as perfect, we’re saying ‘You can make it as you want it to be,’ " Abdulrehman said.
The psychologists are trying to make WinnLove a city-wide initiative by engaging people on social media and connecting with organizations such as Take Pride Winnipeg and the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.
"Many of our tips are related to diversity because, as a team, we see it as an important piece of civic pride — to have a better sense of where you live and getting to know your neighbour."
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.