Albina Veltman, MD, FRCPC and Tara La Rose, MSW, PhD, RSW, provide Suggestions on how to create an LGBTQ-positive space in health care settings.
Accurately represent the patients’ identity based on the patients’ understanding of themselves, not based on assumptions or simply because that is the way the form was designed.
LGBTQ-identified individuals experience increased vulnerability to mental health issues due to a variety of factors. While LGBTQ populations are often combined as a single entity for research and/or clinical purposes, each of these identities represents a distinct population with their own specific health needs.
Mental health clinicians should be mindful of taking a holistic, patient-centered approach by treating each patient as a whole, unique individual, rather than a collection of risk factors.
It is important to demonstrate public acceptance for patients who traditionally experience bullying, violence, discrimination, heterosexism/cisgenderism, homophobia, biphobia and/or transphobia, and who may experience rejection and lack of support from friends and family.
Creating a positive space in health care settings requires more than simply placing a rainbow sticker on the clinic office door; it requires multiple layers of action that demonstrate to LGBTQ patients that their identity and concerns are important and normalized as part of the diversity that exists within all patient populations. Offering gender inclusive bathrooms demonstrates inclusion for everyone.
Patients who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer (LGBTQ) often face significant barriers when accessing mental health services. Developing and displaying policies that reflect LGBTQ inclusion demonstrates a commitment to LGBTQ+ patients’ human rights.
Some clinicians adopt a neutral position on the issue of patients’ sexual orientation and gender identity, believing that these issues do not or should not affect their treatment in any way. However, neutrality can equate to dismissiveness in that this stance does not take into account an important part of a person’s identity and life experiences.
Dr Rose is Assistant Professor, McMaster University School of Social Work and Associate Graduate Program Chair, Master of Social Work in Critical Leadership in Social Services and Communities.
Dr Veltman is Associate Professor McMaster University Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences.
For more on this topic, see LGBTQ Mental Health: What Every Clinician Needs to Know, on which this slideshow is based.