Recipient of the MHRC-NBHRF COVID-19 Child, Youth & Family Mental Health Impact Grant
A virtual support program led by/for LGBTQ+ youth that focuses on resiliency learned from elders in the LGBTQ+ community who survived the AIDs epidemic
Dr. Erin Fredericks, St. Thomas University
Nathan Thompson, Block House Counselling & Psychotherapy Services
Half of New Brunswick youth in grades 6 to 12 showed symptoms of depression or anxiety in the 2018-2019 New Brunswick Student Wellness Survey. Since then, the reality of COVID-19 – such as social isolation, physical distancing, partial school closures and an uncertain future – have heightened the risks of mental health crises across Canada.
For LGBTQ+ youth, their rates of depression, anxiety, substance use, self-harm and suicidal ideation are significantly higher than youth overall in New Brunswick; and for transgender and non-binary youth, higher still. A new virtual program, awarded $50K in funding by MHRC and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation (NBHRF), aims to support the needs of this vulnerable group during the pandemic and beyond.
The program’s goal is to help LGBTQ+ youth to connect with and learn from elders within the LGBTQ+ community to build a stronger sense of community, to provide supports that will help the youth through this pandemic and strengthen their resiliency, and to see themselves as a resilient group of people who have successfully survived previous difficult times that include.
Unlike other LGBTQ+ youth mental health programs, this virtual program will be developed, implemented and evaluated by LGBTQ+ youth, with support and guidance from the research team. Elders in the community who lived through the AIDS epidemic are positioned as important sources of knowledge, but not experts. The intergenerational knowledge gleaned from these elders via focus groups, interviews and surveys will inform the mental health support program. But it will be the LGBTQ+ youth – positioned as the experts on their own mental health needs – who will be the decision-makers.
Going forward, the program will also include a feedback form to ensure the program’s ongoing revision will continue to reflect and serve the needs of future generations of LGBTQ+ youth.
This grant is part of MHRC’s multi-province research initiative on COVID-19’s impact on mental health, which was launched to advance stakeholder-driven and outcomes-focused research.