Gone are the days when we believed mental health was only an issue for just a handful of people. Especially after what we’ve been through with COVID-19, there is growing awareness that everyone has mental health needs and challenges – pressures that make us more anxious or depressed, less hopeful for the future, or less able to enjoy the things that once brought us joy and purpose.
While these pressures can apply to anyone, many queer, trans, and Two-Spirit people endure these challenges at higher rates, and often for longer and with more serious consequences. This isn’t news to most of us who are a part of the 2S/LGBTQ+ community, whether that’s because we have experienced mental health challenges ourselves, provided support to others in our community, or read concerning headlines and statistics in the media, online, or in academic research.
A great deal of research indeed paints a gloomy picture of mental health within the 2S/LGBTQ+ community: we’re more likely to struggle with loneliness, depression and anxiety, and we’re more likely to develop disordered eating, problematic substance use, and body image issues. Queer and trans people – particularly youth and young adults – are more likely to attempt suicide. And as is so frequently the case, these disparities are more pronounced among minorities within the community, including 2S/LGBTQ+ people who are Indigenous, Black, and/or racialized, trans, non-binary, and/or gender-diverse, newcomers or immigrants, or are living with disabilities/or and chronic health issues.
It’s a lot to take in, especially when so much of the research that gets attention is focused on the problems and is primarily communicated for other researchers. If you’re a concerned community member and want to learn more about mental health issues impacting queer, trans, and Two-Spirit people, it can feel pretty daunting to figure out where to even start.
That’s why this month we’re excited to publish a new resource series on the mental health of 2S/LGBTQ+ communities in Canada, summarizing the latest in mental health evidence and research with Two-Spirit, trans, and queer people. Over the course of May, we’ll be releasing 4 mental health primers that unpack and contextualize key areas of research specific to 2S/LGBTQ+ people – and tailored for a non-academic audience, including community organizations, service providers, and policymakers.
These primers are provide an introduction to the available research and evidence on a variety of mental health topics, including social isolation and connection, coping and minority stress, barriers to mental health services and supports, and unique considerations for minoritized 2S/LGBTQ+ people. Using a plain language approach, each primer breaks down relevant academic literature on queer, trans, and Two-Spirit mental health -- an entry point for anyone interested in learning more about how we can improve mental health policy and practice in our communities.
These resources are part of a broader mental health initiative at CBRC funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada to ramp up community leadership and participation in 2S/LGBTQ+ mental health through capacity, skills, and knowledge development. It’s not enough for the work to improve our communities’ mental health to be left to academics or administrators – we need queer, trans, and Two-Spirit people to be actively engaged in research and policy to ensure this work actually results in improvements in mental health services, supports, and outcomes in our communities.
Because while there are significant mental health challenges within 2S/LGBTQ+ communities, and the barriers to services and support are substantial, our communities also have a rich history of coming together to support each other. To organize around issues that impact our health and wellbeing with creativity and care. Without channeling this history – and power – we know that efforts to improve our communities’ mental health and wellbeing will be either limited, misguided, and potentially harmful. Nothing about us, without us.
Over the coming months, we’ll be launching new resources and programming that will create more opportunities for 2S/LGBTQ+ people and organizations to better understand and respond to community needs, and to demystify and destigmatize conversations around mental health. From peer-based skills and capacity building, new research reports, to campaigns on mental health policy priorities, we’re excited to be rolling out new initiatives that will centre our communities in the work to strengthen 2S/LGBTQ+ mental health in Canada.
Funding for CBRC’s new mental health initiatives is provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Supporting the Mental Health of Communities Most Impacted by COVID-19. For more information, please see the Government of Canada’s press release.