If you are in distress, you can text WELLNESS to 741741 at any time. If it is an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency department.

Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights — this year’s theme of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia — provides an advocacy focus to champion people’s right to express their gender, to be free from violence, and to live with dignity.

As research by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the Centre for Suicide Prevention shows, those with diverse gender expressions face unique stressors. Transgender people not only experience higher rates of discrimination and harassment than their cisgender counterparts, they experience poor mental health outcomes as a result. They are also at greater risk for suicide.

The well-being of people with diverse gender identities can be greatly affected by the characteristics, norms, practices, and spaces of our institutional environments. On this day, and every day, organizational leaders can become more aware and empathetic toward the value of positive mental health practices through the kinds of resources offered by Fondation Émergence.

Recent large-scale institutional changes in this direction are notable. Statistics Canada now includes gender identification on the census and distinguishes “sex at birth” and “gender” in its questionnaire. And in April, Health Canada announced plans to screen blood donors based on sexual behaviour rather than sexual orientation, ending a policy long viewed as discriminatory.

That said, more work needs to be done:

  • In a December 2020 Trans PULSE Canada survey, 6.9 per cent of trans and non-binary respondents said the pandemic had led to changes in their living situations that meant living with someone who is unsupportive of their gender.
  • According to research by Egale, in partnership with INNOVATIVE Research Group, COVID-19 has had a disproportionately negative impact on the financial situations of people in Canada’s 2SLGBTQ+ communities. Statistics Canada also reports that they may be more economically vulnerable during the pandemic.

Such findings illustrate the need for continued investments in culturally relevant mental health and substance use supports for 2SLGBTQ+ communities and the importance of addressing barriers to accessing care.

Since the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia began in 2005, it has acknowledged the lived and living realities of those who face discrimination based on their gender identity or expression. The day itself is also significant: it was on May 17, 1990, that the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental health disorders.

Today, it is championed and celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts remain illegal, and a campaign has been launched to secure the United Nations’ official recognition. Greater awareness, affirmation of identities, and inclusion through activities such as Pride Month help promote greater harmony and justice in society, which lead to more positive mental health outcomes for people in these communities.

During Pride Month this June, the MHCC — in partnership with the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and with Leger — will share emerging research on how 2SLGBTQ+ individuals are faring throughout the pandemic. Among its key findings were that 2SLGBTQ+ communities are facing heightened rates of stigma, discrimination, and harassment, yet they are also resilient, hopeful, accepting, and inclusive.

Michel Rodrigue
President and CEO

Note: If your experience makes this day difficult, help lines are available from Hope for Wellness at 1‑855-242-3310 and from Talk 4 Healing at 1-855-554-HEAL. You can also text WELLNESS to 741741 at any time or reach out to the LGBT Youth Line for telephone (1-800-268-9688) or text (647‑694‑4275) support.

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Mental Health Commission of Canada
613-683-3748 / media@mentalhealthcommission.ca

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In advance of World Day for International Justice, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) is releasing new research and recommendations that highlight the need for improved support for justice-involved people across Canada.

“COVID-19 has highlighted the need to address the service gaps and risks facing people living with mental illness and problematic substance use in Canadian correctional facilities,” said Dr. Mary Bartram, director of policy for the MHCC.

In Canada, between 65 and 70 per cent of people who are incarcerated are living with problematic substance use. Furthermore, 73 per cent of federally incarcerated men and 79 per cent of federally incarcerated women live with one or more current mental health problems or illnesses.

“Through this research, we set out to determine how best to support justice-involved persons, not only while incarcerated, but also as they transition into society,” said Michel Rodrigue, MHCC’s president and CEO.

The COVID-19, mental health, and substance use in correctional settings policy brief provides decision-makers with guidance and recommendations on how to improve supports for justice-involved people.

Highlights from the findings, rooted in evidence and international best practices, include a decarceration strategy, ensuring that medical isolation is not set up in the same way as solitary confinement, improved data collection, and increased funding to transitional community services and housing support.

In the coming weeks, the MHCC will be releasing a comprehensive inventory of the mental health and substance use services that are currently available in Canada for people transitioning from the criminal justice system. Organized by province and territory, and available in both official languages, this interactive inventory will be regularly revised to ensure its programs and services are up to date.

Quick Facts

  • Rates of serious mental illness, such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and psychotic disorders, are anywhere from two to three times higher for incarcerated persons in comparison to the community
  • 83 per cent of federally incarcerated First Nations, Inuit and Métis (FNIM) men and 95 per cent of federally incarcerated FNIM women met the criteria for one or more current mental disorders
  • Rates of attempted suicide and suicidal ideation range from 3 to 11 times higher than that of the community, with FNIM persons disproportionately affected

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The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and its partners are pleased to announce the investment of $2 million toward targeted research on the mental health effects of cannabis use among diverse populations in Canada.

This joint investment with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Canadian Consortium for Early Intervention in Psychosis (CCEIP), the Schizophrenia Society of Canada Foundation, and Veterans Affairs Canada, will fund a total of 18 research projects covering a wide range of subpopulations that are under-represented in current research.

“To gain a clear understanding of the mental health impacts of cannabis use in Canada, we must include representation from all areas of the population — particularly from those communities who are frequently overlooked in research,” said MHCC president and CEO Michel Rodrigue. “With these new projects, we hope to help answer important questions in the existing research and inform the development of future larger-scale projects.”

The groups included in the 18 innovative projects cover a broad spectrum, including racialized and Indigenous communities, individuals experiencing mental illness (such as schizophrenia and psychosis, PTSD, and depression), 2SLGBTQ+ communities, and Veterans.

“Research projects like these are absolutely vital as we work to improve the supports and programs we provide to those who’ve served our country,” said Lawrence MacAulay, minister of Veterans Affairs and associate minister of National Defence. “We’ll be able to make better decisions by exploring the impact of cannabis on areas like PTSD or the mental health and quality of life of our Veterans, and Veterans Affairs Canada is proud to be providing funding as a partner in this important research.”

Research gaps the new evidence will address include the impacts of cannabis use for individuals with a history of trauma, cannabis use among individuals with substance use disorders who identify as 2SLGBTQ+, and improved pathways to care for young people in racialized communities with emerging psychosis.

“Since the legalization of cannabis, many serious questions remain as to the potential harm of cannabis use on a person’s mental health,” said Chris Summerville, CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada Foundation. “Sufficient research has indicated a link between cannabis and psychosis, and it is important to continue growing the knowledge base to help people in Canada make informed decisions about cannabis use.”

Nicola Otter, executive director of CCEIP, and Dr. Phil Tibbo, president of CCEIP agreed, adding that their organization “is extremely pleased to support a research project that will further the understanding of youth perceptions on cannabis use and its link to psychosis, with an emphasis on racialized and Indigenous populations.”

“This important research will identify knowledge gaps, strengthen the evidence base, and inform future projects and policy,” said Dr. Samuel Weiss, scientific director at the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. “These research teams will accomplish this in partnership with people who use cannabis — ensuring that people with lived and living experience of cannabis use are meaningfully involved in all phases and stages, including research design, execution, knowledge translation and dissemination, and evaluation.”

Taken together, these projects will help build a more inclusive evidence base that doesn’t only account for diversity, but embraces it.

From Mental Health Commission of Canada

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) congratulates Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon on her appointment as the first Indigenous Governor General. As a dedicated public servant, mental health and wellness champion, and former MHCC board member, we are thrilled to see her become the first Inuk woman to hold this post. 

In her time on the MHCC’s board of directors in 2010, Ms. Simon offered an invaluable perspective on supporting the mental wellness of northern communities. She has since continued to be a vocal mental health advocate, spreading the message that mental illness is treatable, so long as we are willing to talk about it. Through her commitment to combating stigma, she has encouraged many important conversations about mental health, both within Indigenous communities and more broadly.

We look forward to watching Ms. Simon infuse a fresh outlook into this well-deserved role.

Michel Rodrigue
President and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada

Contact
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Mental Health Commission of Canada
613-683-3748 / media@mentalhealthcommission.ca

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