Enabling Pride: sexuality, inclusion, and the implications for mental health providers

Image alt text

By Poppy Ellis Logan – @poppyellislogan
Associate Lecturer in Mental Health and My Care Academy Practice Lead

This week marks the start of Pride 2020, the month-long LGBT+ festival that commemorates the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and promotes LGBT+ inclusion and equality.  Each year, London  ‘comes out’ in celebration of sexual diversity, and across BEH and C&I you may already be waving your own rainbow flag in recognition of the event. But is there a way in which we can use Pride to inform our own practice? And how can we celebrate Pride in the midst of COVID-19 and varying levels of ‘lockdown’?

 

The voices of LGBT+ patients:

 

At the heart of Pride is a message that every individual has a right to participation and equal treatment; in contrast to the marginalisation and exclusion still faced by many LGBT+ individuals around the world and indeed in our own society. In line with the motto of ‘nothing about us without us’, Pride is led by, and showcases, LGBT+ individuals. This year, Pride parades will not be possible – and trying to celebrate Pride from lockdown may feel impossible to those usually able to join the parades.

The barriers posed by the Coronavirus on traditional Pride celebrations are not new for everybody. For many years, the traditional Pride parade has not been accessible to everybody, and many communities are underrepresented each year as a result. To address this issue, a range of intersectional groups appeared for the first time at Pride last year to visibly represent their communities who are otherwise underrepresented. Local newspaper The Shropshire Star reported that Stonewall reached out to groups including UK Black Pride, transgender charity Mermaids, LGBT+ Muslim charity Imaan and ParaPride (an LGBT+ disability organisation) specifically for this purpose [full article available here].

Despite these initiatives to further diversify the Pride celebration, it has been a yearly inevitability that many of our LGBT+ patients cannot participate in the annual event. Usually, this is for logistical reasons; patients confined to wards or secure units face a physical barrier in attending. Many people may not feel safe or ready for others to know that they identify as LGBT+ themselves, due to the widespread stigma, prejudice and discrimination that still prevails in many communities. Individuals with caring obligations, physical health limitations, or difficulties mixing with other people have all had this  struggle. The idea of large crowds of people, getting drunk in the afternoon, disco music, bright colours, lights, flags and more have historically be a huge barrier for individuals who struggle with sensory disorders, substance or alcohol abuse, social anxiety, and so on.

This year, Pride will take place in a world that none of us have seen before. This is the year in which our patients are not alone in facing barriers to be a part of Pride. So perhaps, this year, our patients can show the world how we might celebrate Pride from confinement.

Communication and respect are always central in any example of great mental health practice. Pride gives us an opportunity to show our respect for patients of all (and no) sexualities and genders, whether they have identified themselves to you as LGBT+ or not. So over the course of the next month, why not celebrate Pride by seeing how you can give your patients a voice. Empower your patients to show the world how Pride can be celebrated in a new, inclusive and accessible way. Celebrate innovation and showcase the activities that can be done from the ward or from home that your patients may already be doing.

My Care Academy logo featuring a heart in the colours of the LGBT+ rainbow flag

Below are some ideas for ways you might do this. Have a go at some of these or come up with a new activity of your own!

Please don’t forget to share your stories with us on Twitter (@MyCareAcademy) and on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/company/my-care-academy)!

 

Some suggestions and ideas:

 

  • For inpatient/ward settings:
    • Facilitate a Pride-themed craftivism session on your ward and display some of the items made in public areas to celebrate patient creativity and indicate that the service values the importance of Pride. If you’ve not heard of craftivism before, it’s exactly what it sounds like – craft and activism combined to form a creative and therapeutic means of protest.
    • Organise a Pride-themed poetry writing session or a spoken-word performance on the subject of Pride for all patients to take part in if they wish.
    • Encourage discussions around sexuality and mental health during therapy group activities.
    • Consider providing a therapeutic space specifically for individuals to discuss issues that they may feel uncomfortable speaking about in the presence of other demographics. For example, you could follow the example of Islington Mind by setting up an LBT Women Only Space or a Men’s Group.
    • Use posters in public areas to signpost patients to digital platforms where they can easily access and contribute to Pride-related discussions.
    • Set up some engagement campaigns to get a sense of your patients’ views on different issues. You can find a few examples on my Pinterest ‘Campaigning’ Board, and you can also follow My Care Academy on Pinterest here for more general healthcare-related pinspiration!
  • For outpatient settings:
    A Pride-themed post box for patients to submit anonymous tweets or Pride-related artwork to be posted online
    • Offer to tweet anonymously for patients, perhaps by creating a ‘Twitter Postbox’ where patients can write and post cards they’d like you to anonymously tweet from your service on their behalves.
    • Set up a Pride-themed feedback box (i.e. specifically using this feedback box to ask about the LGBT+ experience of your service).
    • Organise focus group sessions with service users who identify as trans to look at how you can make your service more inclusive for people of all (and no) genders. These, of course, can be hosted online via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or another provider.
    • Network with other LGBT+ groups to organise virtual events for patients where speakers can give advice about day-to-day difficulties faced by LGBT+ people, e.g. combating homophobia and/or transphobia.
  • Virtual Pride events to get involved with:
    • In response to the cancellations of physical parades and Pride parties, there are a host of virtual events happening throughout the month. One list of events is available from Forbes magazine.
    • In addition to these, the NHS is also hosting a virtual Pride celebration on 26th June. To find out more, or to ask how you can be involved, contact them on Twitter @VirtualNHSPride or using the hashtag #NHSVirtualPride. 

 

Further learning and resources:

 

Reading:
Websites:
    • Check out Islington Mind’s client-led LGBT+ service, Outcome, which provides a brilliant example of LGBT+ mental health provision in London: http://www.islingtonmind.org.uk/our-services/outcome/
    • Bookmark some LGBT+ signposting resources, starting with Mind’s excellent information pages about LGBT+ mental health: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/lgbtiqplus-mental-health/#.XR9wWehKjIV
    • Next, have a look at the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) website. GIRES are a great source of information, advocacy, training and education to improve the lives of trans and gender non-conforming people.
    • Stonewall, the national campaign to achieve equality and justice for LGBT+ people, have a directory of LGBT+ resources which allow you to search for services by postcode. You can find it here.
    • Regard are a really interesting organisation who provide resources and campaigning relating to LGBT+ and disability. Their website is also extremely accessible and a good example of online accessibility.
    • For more information about craftivism, check out the Craftivist Collective – an organisation who deliver training and materials for beginner craftivists. Read their story at https://craftivist-collective.com/our-story/.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Designed and developed by The MTM Agency