How individuals’ sex, gender and sexual orientation affect their adjustment to the COVID-19 crisis

Submitted

Posted on Thursday November 4, 2021

 


World Mental Health Day aims to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world, mobilize efforts in support of mental health and dispel social stigma surrounding mental illness. The Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization (DTPAO) is taking this opportunity to highlight the fact that the health crisis has weighed particularly heavily on DND’s LGBTQ2+ communities, who were already experiencing discrimination prior to the pandemic.

In a Canada-wide study published by Egale Canada, 42% of LGBTQ2+ respondents reported significant impacts on their mental health in the current situation, compared with 30 per cent of non-LGBTQ2+ respondents. According to the same study, the main reasons for consultation by LGBTQ2+ persons during the pandemic include mental health issues, such as anxiety and social isolation. “I think the situation is very representative of DND LGBTQ2+ communities. There is still difficulty at DND/CAF when it comes to taking into account that our population is affected in a much more profound way than the general population,” says Major André Jean, Co-Chair of the DTPAO.

“When you add the effects and impacts of the pandemic onto discrimination, it’s a big mental and physical burden on our communities,” explains Major Jean. “We know that LGBTQ2+ communities are at greater risk for mental health issues during the COVID crisis, simply because they don’t have access to the same resources heterosexual or cisgender people do.”

During the current crisis, this issue requires attention for one simple reason: in addition to being a health hazard for individuals, this pandemic has the potential to exacerbate inequalities that exist between men, women and persons of diverse sexual and gender identities. In Canada, these individuals are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of social isolation. They are twice as likely to live alone than heterosexual people and are at high risk for anxiety, depression, suicidal behaviour, self-harm and substance abuse. According to the findings of the Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, preliminary results show that transgender, non-binary, bisexual and pansexual individuals report more symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to the general population. “COVID-19 has increased distress and mental health needs, and this has not spared DND’s LGBTQ2+ communities. We must act in order to help and support our employees and colleagues,” says Major Jean.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic and the physical distancing measures it has entailed has had many impacts on the lives of Defence Team members, one of the most important being the development of telework. Working from home was the simplest and safest way to avoid contact with colleagues and prevent contamination. However, the danger with telework is isolation, and no one is exempt from it. Working from home on a permanent basis can, over time, have very real impacts on employees and their morale. In the long term, employee mental health can be directly affected, according to Statistics Canada. Telework changes social relationships, and human contact is practically non-existent.

According to Major Jean, “interactions between employees now take place on social media or by email, making them much more difficult to manage, which can result in a breeding ground for discrimination and bullying of DND LGBTQ2+ communities. We must not hesitate to give our moral support, suggest that our employees and colleagues seek help, and speak out against unacceptable situations.”

In closing, we all have a role to play in ensuring the well-being of our communities and fostering a respectful and inclusive work environment at DND/CAF. Mental health is a taboo topic that needs to be demystified. On this day, the DTPAO is advocating for dialogue between employees and managers to highlight the measures that can be taken at all levels to invest more in mental health on an individual level, by acting to promote our own mental health and that of our friends, family and wider community. Mental health concerns us all. Let’s talk about it!!


Within the Defence team, many dedicated colleagues are actively working to create a safer and more inclusive and respectful environment for all.

You are invited to work with the Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization (DTPAO) to improve diversity and inclusion within the organization. Since the DTPAO’s creation, more than 200 members of the Defence Team from LGBTQ2+ communities and their allies have come together to create a pathway for change.

If you have questions or would like to get involved, send an email to the following address: LGBTQ2DTPNNational-LGBTQ2REFDNationale@forces.gc.ca.

Locally, you can also contact Corporal Christopher Yetman, Military Co-chair for DTPAO, at chrisyetman@outlook.com or Christopher.Yetman@forces.gc.ca, or Master Corporal Jemah Woodruff, Military Co-chair at 613-687-5511 ext 5780.