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Mental Health and Substance Use During COVID-19: Spotlight On 2SLGBTQ+ Communities in Canada

It has been two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since October 2020, the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction have been tracking the relationship between mental health and substance use through a series of bimonthly polls. Concerns about catching the virus, feelings of isolation and hopelessness, financial concerns, job insecurity, the trauma of losing a loved one, or a combination of these and other stressors, have affected us all. However, not everyone has been impacted equally.

2SLGBTQ+ communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to increases in social, political, and economic inequities. Although several surveys have been conducted to assess the impact of the pandemic on 2SLGBTQ+ communities, there is still a lack of evidence about its effect on mental health and substance use specifically.

Key Findings

  • About 1 in 4 2SLGBTQ+ respondents report excellent/very good mental health during the pandemic.
    • Rates are lower for 2SLGBTQ+ youth (13%), 2SLGBTQ+ low-income (9%), and Black, East/Southeast Asian, and South Asian 2SLGBTQ+ respondents (about 20%).
  • Almost half (46%) of 2SLGBTQ+ respondents reported moderate to severe anxiety symptoms in September 2021.
  • About 30% of 2SLGBTQ+ respondents who consume alcohol report consuming more, and about 20% who use cannabis report using more since the start of the pandemic.
  • Only half (48%) of 2SLGBTQ+ respondents report being able to cope with pandemic stress, with lower rates among 2SLGBTQ+ youth(42%) and Black 2SLGBTQ+ respondents (35%).
  • 30% of all 2SLGBTQ+ respondents and 40% of all 2SLGBTQ+ youth report accessing virtual mental health services since the start of the pandemic; fewer report accessing in-person services.
  • Access to treatment for substance use is far lower, particularly for youth (7% of all 2SLGBTQ+ respondents and 5% of 2SLGBTQ+ youth).
  • 2SLGBTQ+ respondents report finances as the top barrier to accessing mental health and substance use services, and report facing more barriers than non-2SLGBTQ+ respondents in accessing mental health services.
  • These findings highlight the importance of continued investment in culturally safe mental health and substance use supports and environments for 2SLGBTQ+ communities, building capacity and competency, and addressing barriers to access.

It is important to balance the findings with an understanding that 2SLGBTQ+ communities are strong, hopeful, accepting, and inclusive.

Leger Poll series resource page

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