New Mental Health Support for Guys into Guys During the Pandemic

MAX Ottawa launches new mental health program to better address the needs of GBT2Q guys amid the COVID-19 public health crisis.

As of next week, guys into guys can begin to schedule appointments for peer support sessions with volunteers who will provide a listening ear, as well as referrals and resources as appropriate, in both English and French. Sessions will be held virtually or over the phone for up to 45 minutes, in a safe and confidential space. Starting next week, GBT2Q guys can schedule an appointment with the Peer Support Program by calling, emailing, or visiting the MAX website.

Volunteering has become key to responding to the various needs that have arisen with the pandemic. As such, volunteers and students involved in this program have a unique opportunity to serve their community.

Freddy Baril, a volunteer for the Peer Support Program, shared, “I’m motivated to volunteer in this new program because I personally know queer folks who are struggling during these challenging times. I’ve previously benefited from MAX’s Body Image support group which has improved my self-esteem, so now I look forward to playing a part supporting our communities.”

Take the first step to becoming a volunteer with the Peer Support Program by reviewing the application.

“Following Canada’s health authorities’ recommendations on physical distancing, we are concerned how this measure will impact the queer communities who already face higher rates of loneliness, depression, and other mental health realities,” MAX Ottawa’s Executive Director Roberto Ortiz said.

According to the Angus Reid survey published earlier this week, half of Canadians surveyed report their mental health has gotten worse during the pandemic. In addition, the June 2019 Report of the Standing Committee on Health (The Health of LGBTQIA2 Communities in Canada), “LGBTQIA2 communities are more likely than heterosexual Canadians to develop mental health disorders, have suicidal thoughts and attempt suicide.”

Locally, according to a recent comprehensive health survey of gay and bisexual men in the area, conducted by Dr. Paul MacPherson, a clinical epidemiology scientist at the Ottawa Hospital, one out of every three GBT2Q men report dealing with or having dealt with depression, and 25% are not out to their family doctor.

These inequities are directly linked to increased stigma and discrimination. These factors, coupled with the negative effects of social distancing, make this new Peer Support Program even more urgent to initiate.

“We are living in unprecedented times and health care access has always been difficult for GBT2Q guys. This program helps ensure that the needs of the guys into guys are not overlooked amid the crisis and that they remain a top priority for both health care providers and our communities », continued Ortiz.

“Our community has always responded with care during health crises, especially during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. What we are hoping to do here is to create space for folks to connect with members of the community as well as be affirmed, encouraged, and supported in what they are experiencing right now,” said Joël Xavier, MAX Ottawa’s Health and Wellness Coordinator. 

For more information on how to access MAX Ottawa’s Peer Support Program: www.maxottawa.ca/programs/peersupport