June is Pride Month and a time to recognize the strength and resilience of the LGBTQ2S+ community. It is also an opportunity to advocate for better mental health access, resources, safe spaces and elimination of discrimination in our schools and workplaces.
Canada is home to approximately one million people who are LGBTQ2+, accounting for 4% of the total population aged 15 and older in 2018.
Although much has been accomplished – including the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2005, and the addition of protection of gender expression and identity in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code in 2017, there are still many barriers LGBTQ2S+ individuals face.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Alberta Division is committed to supporting and amplifying the voices of LGBTQ2S+ individuals and advocating for equal rights and safety for all Canadians.
MENTAL HEALTH IN LGBTQ2S+ COMMUNITIES
Many LGBTQ2S+ individuals continue to face discrimination and even violence in their communities, workplaces and homes due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.
According to the 2018 Survey on Safety in Public and Private Spaces, LGB+ Canadians (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and Canadians whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual) were more likely to report being violently victimized in their lifetime and to have experienced inappropriate behaviours in public and online than non-sexual minority Canadians.
Personal, familial, and social acceptance of sexual orientation and gender identity affects the mental health and personal safety of 2SLGBTQIA individuals.
2SLGBTQIA+ individuals also have higher rates of mental health challenges and often struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma and self-acceptance due to ongoing discrimination.
According to Statistics Canada, sexual-minority Canadians were more likely than heterosexual Canadians to report that they consider their mental health to be poor or fair (32% versus 11%). They were also more likely to have seriously contemplated suicide in their lifetimes (40% versus 15%) and to have been diagnosed with a mood or anxiety disorder (41% versus 16%).
Transgender Canadians were also more likely to report their mental health as poor or fair than their cisgender counterparts and also more likely to have seriously contemplated suicide in their lifetimes. They were also more likely than cisgender Canadians to have been diagnosed with a mood or anxiety disorder. A recent crowdsource survey found that gender-diverse participants (that is, participants who did not report their gender as exclusively female or male) were almost three times more likely than male participants to report that they had experienced discrimination during the pandemic.
BARRIERS TO CARE
Socio-economic factors play a key role in mental health and wellbeing for all of us and are particularly important for marginalized populations. Three significant determinants of positive mental health and wellbeing are: social inclusion; freedom from discrimination and violence; and access to economic resources.
LGBTQ2S+ individuals may be more reluctant to seek health care, including mental wellness services, due to fear of discrimination and lack of supportive spaces. LGBTQ2S+ individuals may delay or avoid seeking services because of their experiences of past discrimination or perceived homophobia within the health care system and may be reluctant to disclose their sexual orientation, which may mean they do not receive appropriate care.
CMHA, Alberta Division advocates for inclusive mental health care services for all Albertans.
If you are an LGBTQ2S+ individual looking for resources, connections and support, check out the following Alberta-based organizations for more information.
Youth Hubs Alberta
CMHA, Alberta Division’s Youth Hubs connects Albertans aged 11-24 to community mental health support and wellness resources. Learn more >
Alberta Recovery Colleges
CMHA, Alberta Division’s Recovery Colleges are inclusive learning spaces where anyone interested in supporting their mental health journey can access information, support, and community connections to help them along the way. Learn more >
CMHA Edmonton’s Brite Line is the first mental health and wellness helpline dedicated to supporting people in Edmonton’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community. Created by members of the community for the community, Brite Line is a safe place to call to connect with hope, courage, support, understanding and the freedom to be who you are. Learn more >
Outloud St. Albert
Outloud St. Albert, PFLAG St. Albert, and Pride St. Albert are special groups for LGBTQ Juniors, Youth, and all ages older (PFLAG) to come together to discuss things that matter to them and to ask their most important questions in a safe space. Learn more >
Calgary Outlink is a community-based, not-for-profit charity dedicated to providing support, education, outreach, and referrals for the 2SLGBTQIA+ and allied communities in Calgary, Alberta. Learn more >
The Alberta GSA Network
The Alberta GSA Network is a collective of resources specific to Alberta K-12 students, teachers, and school staff whose goal is to connect with local organizations, community groups, and schools across Alberta. They hope to create a centralized online space to direct people to all of the great resources in Alberta that are available to support learning environments that respect diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions in our schools. Learn more >
Edmonton 2 Spirit Society
Edmonton 2 Spirit Society seeks to re-establish and enhance their traditional roles and responsibilities as Two Spirit people in Indigenous communities while creating supportive environments within all societies for contemporary Two Spirit peoples. Explore their website to view resources on 2 Spirits, Sexual & Gender Identity and Health and learn about their programming >
The Chew Project
CHEW (Community, Health, Empowerment, and Wellness) Project OUTpost is a crisis/drop-in centre for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth and emerging adults ages 14 to 29 who face barriers to mental health, poverty, houselessness, substance use, and oppression. Together, we find hope, chosen family, community, and resources to survive and thrive. Learn more>
Rainbow Alliance for Youth of Edmonton
Rainbow Alliance for Youth of Edmonton is a space of tools and resources for LGBTQ2S+ youth. We are an inter-agency committee serving LGBTQ2S+ youth and promoting increased understanding, empathy, and knowledge. Learn more >
Central Alberta Pride Society (CAPS)
CAPS was founded in 2012 to bring LGBTQ+ awareness and community to Red Deer and surrounding areas. The name was intentionally chosen to be inclusive of urban and rural areas surrounding Red Deer, recognizing that LGBTQIA2S+ people exist beyond city limits. Learn more and contact CAPS through their website >
GET INVOLVED – BECOME AN LGBTQ2S+ ALLY
There are many ways to support the LGBTQ2S+ community and become an ally beyond Pride Month.
- Recognize the diversity of LGBTQ2S+ individuals- these identities also intersect with race, class, size, sexual orientation, age, etc.
- Use preferred pronouns and identify your own
- Create and support safe spaces for LGBTQ2S+ individuals
- Speak up in your own social circles if you hear misinformation or discrimination against LGBTQ2S+ communities
- Amplify the voices of LGBTQ2S+ advocates
- Listen and support – recognize the unique struggles faced by LGBTQ2S+ individuals
- Advocate for safer, more inclusive workplace policies and culture – speak up against discrimination
- Ask educated questions and do your own research
- Support Gay-Straight Alliances in your school community
If you or someone you know needs mental health support, please call 211 (in Alberta) or your local distress line.