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Rainbow Health Victoria suggests taking a strengths approach to supporting LGBTIQ communities through Covid-19

Posted: 06/04/2020

When a crisis hits, many people who have never accessed services before suddenly need support, placing additional strains on already stretched services. Organisations offering support around mental health, family violence, housing, food, financial counselling, AOD, amongst other things, are all under pressure at the moment. So are education providers and other essential services, like supermarkets. And these pressures are only going to increase over the next few months.

So how do we make sure that continue we deliver respectful and inclusive services even when we are under-the-pump?

While these suggestions were designed with LGBTIQ people in mind, they can also apply more broadly to anyone needing support at this time

Some tips for supporting people during Covid-19

  • Take the time to tune into the physical, psychological, social and economic risks your clients may be experiencing, and help them develop and maintain a plan to stay safe.
  • Remember to take a strengths-based approach that helps them tune into their internal and external resources and support them in staying connected. It’s also very affirming to check in about how their communities and networks are doing, including their family of choice.
  • Rapport is important when clients are feeling isolated. If handing a client over to another staff member, remember to take the time to let them know about the unique support needs of your client, and include suggestions about how to build rapport with them. Take time to build a connection with new clients.
  • Not everyone lives with family or housemates who know about what services they are accessing. Before starting a phone or video session, confirm via text or email that the person has a safe and private space to talk, and ask if they have any privacy concerns before going ahead.

For a full list of suggestions, you can access the Rainbow Health Victoria’s LGBTIQ Inclusion for COVID-19 Remote Service tips sheet here.

What are some of the specific things to keep in mind working alongside LGBTIQ communities?

LGBTIQ people and communities are diverse. While many LGBTIQ people are fit and healthy, research suggests that some LGBTIQ people may be more prone to experiencing serious symptoms from the coronavirus. According to LGBT Nation, the US-based National LGBT Cancer Network says there are three reasons that LGBT people may need additional support in avoiding coronavirus

‘First, LGBTQ people are 50% more likely to smoke than cisgender, heterosexual people. Coronavirus is a respiratory disease and smoking – and likely using e-cigarettes as well – reduces immunity to respiratory diseases and makes recovery from those diseases take longer.

‘Second, LGBTQ people have higher rates of both cancer and HIV, both of which can compromise a person’s immune system.

‘Last, LGBTQ people face barriers when it comes to access to health care. Discriminatory attitudes are common enough among medical professionals that some LGBTQ people avoid or delay health care.’

In addition, LGBTIQ people may also experience intersecting forms of discrimination or disadvantage related to their race, religious background or culture, for example. They are also more likely to experience mental health issues and family violence.

How can services support LGBTIQ people during this time?

Rainbow Health Victoria acknowledges that many of the ways we usually demonstrate that we offer an inclusive service, like displaying LGBTIQ-inclusive posters or pride flags in waiting rooms or having non-gendered toilets, are not easily seen when we are providing services remotely.

Here are some of Rainbow Health Victoria’s suggestions about what we can do while working remotely:

  • Post social media messages reassuring LGBTIQ people that your service is here to support them
  • Follow LGBTIQ community organisations and community groups on social media, and share their posts and resources
  • Add a section to your hold music affirming your support for LGBTIQ communities
  • Wear a pride lanyard on video consultations, if you have one
  • Wear a pronoun badge. If you don’t have one, you can use a sticky label.
  • Make sure you are respectful of the pronoun and name the person uses

Looking after ourselves

Lastly, we need to look after ourselves as much as possible. When we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, we are less likely to be able to be respectful and inclusive of other people’s experiences of the world.  We are also less able to notice and explore the nuanced and complex ways in which people’s lived experience, past and present, may impact on their ability to proactively engage with services.

So finally, be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself, your family and community, so that you are in the best space to support others.

For more information or support, you can contact Rainbow Heath Victoria on rainbowhealthvic@latrobe.edu.au or contact LGBTIQ support services in your state or country.

Rainbow Talk (digital version)

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Self Care Cards : for home and work (digital version)

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Free sampler – Introduction to LGBTIQ-Inclusive Practice online course *

*Note – the full course is currently only available to organisations but we will be making it available to individuals shortly. Everyone can access the sampler for free.

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