CGSHE commemorates Pride Month

June 26, 2023   |   Blog, News

Written by Samira Karsiem, Dr. Travis Salway & Sarah Watt 

To commemorate June as Pride Month, CGSHE is highlighting research that uplifts 2S/LGBTQ+ people and communities on our blog. For today’s blog post, we connected with the MindMapBC team to learn more about their important project supporting mental health care access for 2S/LGBTQ+ folks across British Columbia. MindMapBC is a database of outpatient mental health services including professional counseling, peer support, social groups, and more, emphasizing those services that offer 2S/LGBTQ+ affirming care.

Where did the idea for MindMapBC come from?

MindMapBC was created to help address gaps in mental healthcare access faced by 2S/LGBTQ+ people (Two-Spirit, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and other gender and sexual minority people). A recent study of 2S/LGBTQ+ people struggling with depression in Canada found that 95% experienced one or more barriers to accessing mental health services, most commonly due to cost, inadequate insurance, stigma, or lack of affirming providers.

We heard from community members and providers alike that finding safe and affirming mental health providers can be challenging. MindMapBC aims to help connect people with accessible, affirming mental health supports. The website currently features over 200 mental health and related supports (e.g., Two-Spirit and queer social and networking groups, mental health resources). Whenever possible, we prioritize services that are free or offer reduced rates, are accessible (available without a referral), and are affirming of 2S/LGBTQ+ people. 

How did MindMapBC come to be?

MindMapBC began as a partnership between researchers at Simon Fraser University, the BC Centre for Disease Control, the Health Initiative for Men, the Community-Based Research Centre, and The Roundtable, with a pilot version of the site prepared in 2018-19 and a subsequent version launched in 2021. Travis Salway, a public health researcher and 2S/LGBTQ+ community advocate, noticed that many different collaborators were facing similar challenges in identifying local, low-cost, and 2S/LGBTQ+ affirming mental health supports. Through the Roundtable, community members talked about how they avoided seeking mental healthcare because of the fear of encountering stigmatizing providers. Meanwhile, sexual health clinicians told Travis and his research team that they often did not screen 2S/LGBTQ+ clients for mental health concerns because they were unsure of where to refer them. 

Having heard these common barriers to finding 2S/LGBTQ+ affirming mental health supports, we worked with a wide range of partners, including mental health providers, sexual health providers, and people with lived and living mental health experience to identify services to be included on the website. As the site has evolved, we have continued to work with partners – in particular, community advisory groups – to expand the site and to refine our approach to identifying and screening new services. With their guidance, we have increased the geographic reach and scope of services included on the site, and revised a set of questions that help communicate to website users exactly what providers are doing to create a trans-, Two-Spirit-, and/or LGBQ-affirming mental healthcare experience.

Who should use the MindMapBC website?

MindMapBC is a resource for 2S/LGBTQ+ people who are seeking mental health support and information. Our website includes articles that provide general information about accessing mental health and related services. Website visitors can look for specific mental health services and explore supports remotely or in their area. They can also apply several filters that allow them to find services that meet their specific needs and requirements (e.g., languages spoken, physical accessibility, types of services).

Service providers can use the website to identify appropriate resources to share with their clients, or add their own service to MindMapBC using the ‘add-a-service page.

What are your hopes for the MindMapBC project in the future?

In developing and refining MindMapBC, we have leveraged the expertise of people with diverse lived/living, professional, and research experience related to mental health. We are actively working to increase the number of services on the website, particularly in areas outside of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. In addition, we’re working in collaboration with our community groups and partners to develop new resources for the website, including new articles. These articles explore mental health across a broad set of topics and from a wide range of perspectives, including people with lived/living experience with mental health, service providers, researchers, advocates, and others.

Our shared learnings have helped to improve the site over time and will continue to do so. We aim to share these learnings widely in order to help improve mental health resources, support, and access across B.C. 

How can others support the MindMapBC project?

MindMapBC is an evolving project. We rely on feedback from our community partners, and website visitors to help us improve the website and identify gaps in mental health access. We are currently running an online survey of MindMapBC visitors. The survey collects information about website visitors’ experiences using the site and their ideas for improvement. The survey also explores mental health service experiences and needs among website visitors to help us identify gaps in access.

To support MindMapBC, you can:

  • Share your thoughts! Tell us how mental health can be better supported by taking the survey. You’ll find a survey link in the banner on the homepage.
  • Share MindMapBC with your networks. Help us spread the word by sharing MindMapBC on your social media accounts, newsletters, or other avenues. Find us on Facebook and Instagram @REAFFIRMCollaborative.
  • Tell us about services that should be added to MindMapBC. If you would like your service to be added to MindMapBC, please complete the ‘add-a-service’ page. We’ll then review your responses before we include your listing on the website.