From top row, L-R: Natasha Vitkin, Sarah Watt, Amrit Tiwana, Rowdy Reeves, Travis Salway, Angel Kennedy, James Young, Julia Schillaci-Ventura, Aaron Purdie, A.J. Lowik, Aaron Luna, Hannah Kia, Gwen Lister, Trevor Goodyear, Ashleigh Rich, and the Roundtable Logo

The Roundtable: Celebrating British Columbia’s LGBTQ/2S/+ Mental Health & Substance Use Networking Space

July 31, 2020
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By: The Roundtable's SMHART Team and Roundtable Members.

This month, we are celebrating the 5-year anniversary of The Roundtable: British Columbia’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ/2S*/+) Mental Health & Substance Use Networking Space. The Roundtable represents a large and growing network of researchers, community leaders, service providers, and advocates interested in improving mental health and substance use outcomes for, and with, LGBTQ/2S/+ communities. The Roundtable is strengths-based and community led. We draw on community and front-line provider knowledge to initiate new research and evaluation projects, as well as inform public health programming and policy advocacy. The Roundtable engages with both LGBTQ/2S/+ organizations (e.g., QMUNITY, Health Initiative for Men) and health organizations (e.g., BC Centre for Disease Control) while centering the voices and experiences of LGBTQ/2S/+ people. Our membership includes queer and trans people and allies, including members with lived experience with mental health conditions and substance use.

One pillar of our work at the Roundtable is ensuring improved access to and evaluation of mental health and substance use services for LGBTQ/2S/+ people. We have recently supported the development of MindMap, a database of free, low-cost, or sliding-scale outpatient mental health and substance use services, including professional counseling, peer counseling, and support groups, with the option of identifying LGBTQ/2S/+-affirming providers and providers speaking various languages. In addition, Roundtable members representing LGBTQ/2S/+-serving agencies have worked tirelessly to expand existing services. QMUNITY has recently extended their services to offer free counseling to those impacted by COVID-19, and in light of on-going violence and police brutality against Black and Indigenous communities, has partnered with several queer and trans Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (QTBIPOC) mental health providers to offer free counselling to Black and Indigenous individuals. Health Initiative for Men (HIM) has put together a COVID-19 response website, which features COVID-19 mental health resources for queer men, as well as updates on the mental health programs and related new protocols/procedures that respond to the needs that have been identified for this population during the pandemic.

At the Roundtable, we aim to support initiatives that identify and actively address the barriers that diverse LGBTQ/2S/+ people face when accessing mental health and substance use care. Our holistic and intersectional approach to equity considers not only sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, but also gender, race/ethnicity, Indigeneity, socioeconomic status, ability, and other social locations. We are eager to support and work towards equity and social justice for QTBIPOC, and we invite feedback and participation from QTBIPOC communities as our work moves forward.

If you would like to support our work or get involved, get in touch! To join the Roundtable, please contact its co-founder and facilitator, Travis Salway. To give feedback about MindMap, please contact Sarah Watt. To keep in touch, join our mailing list: qtmhr-news-subscribe@lists.riseup.net.

Finally, while Pride is a time for celebrating LGBTQ/2S/+ people, it can also be challenging for many of us. If you would like to talk with someone, please reach out to one of the services listed above. Anyone who is in current or immediate distress should call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433). Thank you for taking the time to support our work.

* Two-Spirit is a way for those who are Indigenous to Turtle Island and who embody diverse or non-normative sexualities, genders, and gender expressions to organize as a community [Source: Harlan Pruden, 2019].