Winter Health and Wellness

Find resources and support to stay healthy all winter long including mental health, substance use, sexual health, and more!

The holidays represent happy times for many…but it’s important to recognize that they can be a major source of stress. In addition, the cold days and early nights of winter impact us in different ways. The weather makes it more difficult for us, particularly LGBTQ+ seniors, to leave our homes. This can give us feelings from occasional “cabin fever” to intense loneliness. 

Holiday parties can increase expectations to socialize. On the other hand, body image, separation from our families, and decreased access to spaces can make it harder to manage our mental health. Winter can also make us more vulnerable to depression and thoughts of suicide.

Many community organizations are closed so staff can engage in self-care and holiday fun. While this is important, it also limits the help folks can access at times it’s needed the most.

MAX’s office hours and social support

MAX tried to identify as many community resources, events, and organizations that are available this time. Stay up to date with The List! (www.maxottawa.ca/thelist).

Our staff, board members, community leaders, and others have also offered their health and wellness tips for this time of year. We’ll be sharing them all throughout the end of December 2019 and into January 2020. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. 

MAX’s office will officially be closed from December 21st, 2019 to January 1st, 2020, re-opening January 2nd. If you need support finding a mental health provider after those times, you can book an intake meeting for our Mental Health Navigation service in advance using our self-referral form.  You can also contact our Health and Wellness Coordinator at joel@maxottawa.ca or 613-440-3237 ext.101. Keep in mind that although we are happy to help you connect to appropriate care, we currently do not offer crisis support services.

Resources and Supports

Below are some resources which may help you during this winter holiday season. If you this time of year can be triggering, we encourage you to copy and paste these resources into your phone or print them out. That way they’re handy if you need them. Being prepared is a great way to practice self-care! Your future self will thank you.

Food and shelter
There are several agencies serving free meals over the holidays. You can find the Community Information Centre of Ottawa’s list here.

You can also call 2-1-1 or 613-761-9076 or toll free 1-877-761-9076 (English & French & other languages, 24/7), or email info@cominfo-ottawa.org to be connected to a full range of community, social, government and health service information.

Mental health crisis and distress:

For life-threatening emergencies, it’s best to call 911.

If you are experiencing mental health distress you can reach the Distress Centre at 613-238-3311 (English only) or the Crisis Line (English & French) at 613-722-6914 or toll-free 1-866-996-0991.

Trans Lifeline offers peer support to trans & non-binary individuals and is just one call or click away. 1-877-330-6366 (hotline open 10:00 AM-4:00 AM, but operators are also frequently available during off-hours, so please call whenever you need to)

Interligne offers 24/7 text and call support to LGBTQ2S+ people in English and French at 1-888-505-1010 (toll-free) or online via their anonymous chat service.

YouthLine offers confidential and non-judgemental peer support for LGBTQ2S+ people aged 16-29 through telephone, text and chat services. Get in touch with a peer support volunteer from Sunday to Friday, 4:00PM to 9:30 PM. Toll-Free: 1.800.268.9688 / In the Toronto Area: 416-962-9688. Text: 647-694-4275

There are also walk-in counselling clinics across Ottawa, courtesy of Jewish Family Services. 

The LGBT2SQ+ Walk-in Clinic at Centretown Community Health Centre runs Wednesdays from 12 PM to 8 PM. (Last walk-in session at 6:30 PM)  *PLEASE NOTE: This Walk-In Counselling Clinic will be closed December 25th and January 1st.

There are some apps that can help too!

HealthyMinds is an app created by The Royal for students to track how they’re feeling and takes a proactive approach towards understanding how those feelings affect us daily.
Calm – provides guided meditation that can help manage anxiety symptoms. Available for iOS and Android

Headspace – also provides guided meditation that can help with mental health. Available for iOS and Android.

Substance Use & Harm Reduction

Winter holidays are often when we consume more substances, but have fewer services available to access harm reduction supplies. It’s a good idea to be prepared and pick up your harm reduction supplies ahead of the winter holidays!

It’s a smart idea to carry a Naloxone kit with you – both for yourself and for your loved ones. This is especially important during the holiday season with more partying. 

If you need to pick up some supplies, you can pick up safer injection, snorting, inhalation, booty bumping and GHB dosing kits at our office before December 21st or after January 2nd during our regular office hours between 10 AM and 5 PM. Come see us at 251 Bank Street (5th floor) for more info or to grab supplies.

NESI is for Harm reduction services for people who use drugs, including safer inhalation and injection supplies, collection and disposal of used equipment, and peer support.

  • Drop-in room at Eccles Branch (55 Eccles St.)  Mon-Fri* 9 AM-noon & 1 PM – 4PM |  *Thurs 1 PM – 4 PM
  • Mobile services Mon-Sat, 5 PM to 11:30 PM. Call : 613-761-0003

Supervised Consumption Services

You can find a list of places to snort, pop, or inject substances with support from Ottawa Public Health staff to make sure you’re safe

Sexual Health

Cold nights, more stress, or just more free time can also impact our sexual needs and desires. It’s good to plan ahead what you’ll need to enjoy yourself and make healthy choices that are right for you and your partner(s)! This may include making sure your PrEP or HIV prescriptions and sexual hygiene items won’t run out during the holidays. It may be tough trying to find a pharmacy open on Christmas day, especially if you’re travelling. 

MAX has plenty of condoms and lube packets on hand. Pick some up during regular business hours. You can also arrange free delivery or pick them up at various places in the city from Ottawa Public Health’s Sex it Smart website. 

PEP

PEP is a medication that can stop HIV from establishing itself in your body after a potential risk of transmission. It is an effective intervention for HIV negative guys who may have been exposed to HIV in the last 24 to 72 hours. Whether you live on the Ontario or Québec side, there are places to get PEP in our area, including the emergency room if everything else is closed. The Equip Yourself website has more info on how PEP works.

Many Thanks! 

Whether your idea of a good time is a huge gathering with chosen family and friends or staying at home reading a book, MAX wants you to have a fun and safe time! We hope these tips and resources are helpful. We also thank you for your support\ as we work hard to become your hub of services and resources for GBT2Q+ guys in the capital region We look forward to helping you MAXimize your health and wellness not just in the winter, but all year long! 

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