For all of us, Pride is an annual opportunity to celebrate diversity and drive awareness toward the inequities that LGBTQ2+ folks still face here in Canada, and around the world.
In honour of the season, we spoke with TELUS Health MyCareᵀᴹ counsellors Rebecca Poirier-Stewart (RSW) and Marc Colbourne (RSW) about the importance of mental health support for the LGBTQ2+ community – and how TELUS Health MyCareᵀᴹ can help make these counselling services accessible.
Why is Pride so important?
Pride season is an important time to raise awareness for LGBTQ2+ issues. For many years, members of the LGBTQ2+ community did not have the same rights or opportunities as cisgender, heterosexual Canadians. Sexual orientation was not a formally protected characteristic in the Canadian Human Rights Act until 1996, while gender identity was not formally protected until 2017. Same-sex marriage was not legalized in Canada until 2005.
While Pride today is a celebration of these great strides, and of LGBTQ2+ identities, it is still important to remember Pride’s roots as a protest against systemic anti-LGBTQ2+ sentiment.
Pride is a chance for us to center a diverse range of LGBTQ2+ experiences in a positive way. During Pride, LGBTQ2+ people can see themselves represented, connect with others who share their experiences, and find access points to the community. Allies can take the opportunity to learn more about the history and politics of pride, and how they can support their LGBTQ2+ peers.
Finally, no matter how you celebrate, Pride is a lot of fun! Encompassing a wide range of celebratory and educational events, Pride brings families, friends, and communities together. It’s something that many LGBTQ2+ folks look forward to each year, and that’s a valuable thing.
What are some of the biggest challenges faced by LGBTQ2+ folks in accessing mental health support?
Mental health issues faced by the LGBTQ2+ community can be identity or sexuality-related, but oftentimes are not.
Counsellors who support the LGBTQ2+ community have experience applying counselling skills to unique, population-specific issues such as coming out, family acceptance, and seeking gender-affirming care. But more frequently, LGBTQ2+ patients are seeking counselling for many of the same reasons as cisgender, heterosexual people – anxiety, depression, and life changes.
Unfortunately, LGBTQ2+ people still face barriers when it comes to accessing mental health care. The issue is multifaceted – professionals in mental health often don’t have training or experience working with LGBTQ2+ communities. Health professionals who are unfamiliar with LGBTQ2+ patients and their needs may be uncomfortable asking patients about this information, which can compound the lack of understanding.
Providers may be reluctant to take on LGBTQ2+ patients out of a misconception that LGBTQ2+ needs are too complex. It can also mean that LGBTQ2+ people have to take on the emotional labour of educating their own healthcare providers, which can be a significant barrier to someone already experiencing a mental health concern. 
For these reasons, many LGBTQ2+ people are reluctant to seek mental health support due to a lack of trust. Counsellors and providers who are themselves LGBTQ2+, or who have experience working with the community, can help to bridge the gap.
How can counsellors on the TELUS Health MyCareᵀᴹ app help members of the LGBTQ2+ community?
As an organization, TELUS takes great pride in supporting and showcasing diversity. This can be seen in our commitment to customers and communities, as well as within the culture of our organization.
With the TELUS Health MyCareᵀᴹ app, TELUS provides a platform that helps a diverse range of counsellors bring forth their varied experiences, in turn helping patients find and access suitable care.
On the TELUS Health MyCareᵀᴹ app, counsellors can list their individual areas of focus and experience. There are no pre-populated options, meaning that counsellors on the app must consider whether they truly have the necessary experience to work effectively with a particular segment of the population. Counsellors on the TELUS Health MyCareᵀᴹ app who list LGBTQ2+ as an area of focus generally have previous experience working directly with LGBTQ2+ clients and communities.
It is an unfortunate reality that even today, many LGBTQ2+ people cannot safely express their identities in their homes. During the pandemic, this was a problem for many community members who were forced to move back in with unsupportive families when universities went online, or due to job loss.
By accessing counselling services on the TELUS Health MyCareᵀᴹ app, patients can have their appointments in a location where they feel most comfortable. For patients living in rural or remote areas, the virtual counselling format can help offer access to a wider range of providers whose practice aligns more closely with LGBTQ2+ needs.
How can counsellors on the TELUS Health MyCareᵀᴹ app help LGBTQ2+ allies?
Being able to access LGBTQ2+-informed care is not only important for LGBTQ2+ people, but also for family members and allies.
LGBTQ2+ informed counselling can provide a safe, nonjudgemental space for cisgender, heterosexual allies to ask questions, process emotions around a loved one’s coming out, and learn how to support their friend or family member without placing added pressure on the LGBTQ2+ person to explain their identity or pronouns.
Seeking mental health support as an LGBTQ2+ person can be daunting. For counsellors and allies, it’s important to validate that anxiety. Rather than simply reassuring, it can be helpful to acknowledge the difficulty of reaching out, and try to meet that person halfway.
If you’re an LGBTQ2+ person seeking support, counsellors Marc and Rebecca want you to know that your comfort comes first. If you have an initial appointment with a counsellor and don’t feel like it’s the right fit, talking to someone else is always an option. There is no obligation to have a second appointment with a counsellor who you don’t feel you connect with.
This Pride, be kind to yourself. Whether you’re experiencing discrimination, are worried about coming out, or just want support for life’s challenges, help is available.
Marc Colbourne, RSW
Marc (he/him) believes that we all have times in our lives when having the compassionate presence of someone else next to us is so very important. He loves being that presence for others - it is what drew him to the counselling field. He is passionate about supporting you as you move through challenging times, gain insight and balance, and work towards achieving your goals. While he enjoys working with a diverse client base, he has more than 20 years of experience working specifically with members of the LGBTQ2+ community. Marc is a registered social worker in Ontario, if you are located in Ontario please book with Marc in the app.
Rebecca Poirer-Stewart, RSW
Rebecca (she/her) loves to be of service. Her capacity to make people feel comfortable eases the development of meaningful connections. Her skills and knowledge around emotion makes her a great ally to you in times of need. Over the past 9 years, Rebecca worked in mental health services to provide safer spaces, especially for homeless and LGBTQ+ communities. She is loyal, filled with the best intentions, and will be honored to guide you through your journey. Rebecca is a registered social worker in Quebec, if you are located in Quebec please book with Rebecca in the app.
Wishing you a happy, safe, and fulfilling Pride season,
The TELUS Health MyCare Team
Book a counsellor appointment with TELUS Health MyCare today
The app displays the next seven available counsellors, if the counsellor you’d like to see is not listed, feel free to call our support line at 1-855-577-8838 and they will book you in with the counsellor. Or visit our website and filter our counsellors by focus areas to select the one most suitable for you.