As we continue to adapt to life amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Mental Health Week couldn’t come soon enough. Recognizing the need to support community members while practicing physical distancing, MAX Ottawa, which supports health and wellness for guys into guys, has implemented a new mental health Peer Support Program for GBT2Q (gay, bisexual, Two-Spirited, queer) and other guys into guys, both cis and trans, in the Ottawa area.
From May 4–10, individuals can sign up for a safe, confidential, 45-minute meeting with one of MAX’s peer support volunteers. The meetings are available in both English and French, can be either virtual or by phone, and are staffed by volunteers and students who rose up to meet the needs of the community.
“I’m motivated to volunteer in this new program because I personally know queer folks who are struggling during these challenging times. I’ve previously benefited from MAX’s Body Image support group, which has improved my self-esteem, so now I look forward to playing a part supporting our communities,” says Peer Support volunteer Freddy Baril.
This program helps ensure that the needs of guys into guys are not overlooked amid the crisis and that they remain a top priority for both health care providers and our communities.
A recent Angus Reid survey on mental health reported that half of Canadian respondents say their mental health has worsened since the beginning of the pandemic. Additionally, the 2019 Standing Committee on Health report The Health of LGBTQIA2 Communities in Canada stated that “LGBTQIA2 communities are more likely to develop mental health disorders, have suicidal thoughts, and attempt suicide than heterosexual Canadians.” In Ottawa, an in-depth survey of gay and bisexual men by Dr. Paul MacPherson, a clinical epidemiologist at the Ottawa Hospital, found that one in three GBT2Q men report a history of or ongoing depression, and one in four are closeted to their family doctor. All this information, combined with the negative effects of physical distancing, demonstrates that the need for this Peer Support Program is undoubtedly urgent.
“Following Canada’s health authorities’ recommendations on physical distancing, we are concerned how this measure will impact the queer communities who already face higher rates of loneliness, depression, and other mental health realities. We are living in unprecedented times and health care access has always been difficult for GBT2Q guys. This program helps ensure that the needs of the guys into guys are not overlooked amid the crisis and that they remain a top priority for both health care providers and our communities,” says Roberto Ortiz, Executive Director of MAX Ottawa.