On Monday, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health announced $2.8 million in funding to the Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) for community-based 2SLGBTQ+ mental health initiatives. The funding was announced at a press conference hosted by Michael Kwag, CBRC’s Executive Director, at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.
Photo: David Brennan, Charmaine Williams, Carolyn Bennett, Michael Kwag, and Jack Lawrence
The 2-year project will support the development of community-based initiatives to increase community leadership and participation in 2SLGBTQ+ mental health research, education, and policy development. Specifically, the project will generate a suite of educational resources and programming to meaningfully connect queer, trans, and Two-Spirit people with mental health research and policy development, and will support the national expansion of CBRC’s “Investigaytors” program.
The Investigaytors is a 2SLGBTQ+ community health leadership program that builds peer research skills and capacity to critically engage in research and health promotion, and was first delivered in 2011 in Vancouver. In 2016, the program expanded to Toronto, where it is run in partnership with the CRUISElab, led by social work Professor David Brennan at the University of Toronto. In 2019, the program expanded to Edmonton through a partnership with the Queer and Trans Health Collective, and to Winnipeg through the Village Lab at the University of Manitoba. The new project funding will support the adaptation of the program to focus specifically on mental health, including the development of curriculum, program materials, and participant-led research and health promotion resources.
Photo: David Brennan
“The focus on community-engaged mental health initiatives is a critical lifeline for 2SLGBTQIA+ people,” said Brennan, who spoke at the announcement. “We know there is a greater possibility of better mental health outcomes if researchers, policymakers, service providers, and governments work together for and with the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities so that they may take the lead in efforts to develop programs, knowledge, resources, and policies that enhance their mental health and wellbeing. The Investigaytors program is a tremendous success in this regard, and we are very grateful for the government and CBRC’s support.”
In addition to reaching 13,000 2SLGBTQI+ individuals through this project, CBRC is also developing and mobilizing new 2SLGBTQI+ mental health resources to increase the knowledge and capacity of 11,000 stakeholders, including health care providers and policymakers, to design and deliver culturally competent and safe care for 2SLGBTQI+ populations.
“For many 2SLGBTQI+ people, being able to access safe spaces or affirming support can make a world of difference in terms of our mental health,” said Michael Kwag. “With the rise in anti-trans and queer hate, and the pandemic's ongoing impact on community services and spaces, it is critical that the 2SLGBTQI+ community sector is better equipped to respond to the unique mental health needs in our communities. This funding is an important step towards ensuring that 2SLGBTQIA+ communities across Canada are able to meet this challenge."
Photo: Michael Kwag
Jack Lawrence, a participant in the Investigaytors Toronto-based program, says his experience in the initiative helped him understand how community-based research — research done with communities, rather than on communities — could benefit queer people.
"Historically, researchers have exploited and harmed the people they studied by not operating on behalf of those people’s best interests. But in community-based research, the wellbeing of the people studied is of the utmost importance," says Lawrence.
Participating in Investigaytors also introduced him to a community of mentors and peers "who wanted to use science and research to improve the lives of other queer guys and queer people in general."
"I was so lucky to form these relationships during the peak of the pandemic," he says. "These connections reinforced my mental wellness, and I’m grateful that those friendships continue to this day."
Photo: Jack Lawrence