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Defining Community for LGBTQ People with Diagnoses of Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder (aka LGBTQ Extension)



Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) people with mental health concerns are amongst the most marginalized individuals in North American society. They face high levels of discrimination as a function of homophobia, transphobia, mental health stigma, and other forms of oppression.  The challenges that these individuals experience are exacerbated by a lack of attention in research and clinical commentaries. It is a paucity of research that has persisted despite (i) estimates of up to a half a million LGBTQ persons with mental health concerns in the United States, (ii) 25 years of repeated calls for inquiry in the area and, (iii) a large body of research highlighting the mental and physical health disparities of LGBTQ people.



This study examines the experiences, beliefs, behaviors, and places that constitute community participation for LGBTQ people who have been diagnosed with psychosis. It provides a thick description of community participation that offers policy makers and clinicians in-depth information which may help them in improving services. Similar to the Main Study, we conducted an in-depth, longitudinal qualitative study of community participation. This study included 16 LGBTQ people who have been diagnosed with psychosis living in Toronto. Participant experiences of community are explored 3 times over the course of one year, examining the physical, social, psychological, political, economic, and cultural dimensions of community participation. We also interviewed service providers in mental health and LGBTQ organizations.



This study lays the groundwork for more extensive lines of research and advocacy. In the context of increasing emphasis upon community participation as a treatment goal and civil right, and evidence indicating the negative impacts on mental health of discrimination and social exclusion, the proposed study represents an important and much called for line of investigation. It may assist in prompting more substantive efforts to foster inclusion and recovery for individuals whose experiences are largely overlooked in current research and policy.



Our preliminary results indicate that community participation is particularly relevant to LGBTQ people with diagnoses of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder given the functions of communities for marginalized people as a source of support and resistance. However, the participants faced a range of barriers to accessing support and creating social networks due to the lack of intersectional inclusion in various contexts, including LGBTQ communities and mental health/mad communities.

This project is in the final stages of analysis with papers being written and reviewed. One exciting development is the creation of a film by several of our participants and the study team with some collaboration with Workman Arts. This film is being premiered in May 2016.


Knowledge Translation

Reimagining Inclusion premiered at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto on May 11th 2016.

This event was designed to facilitate an engaging and informed conversation about how community and service spaces can become more inclusive for people with intersecting, stigmatized identities.

We heard key findings from the 2-year study of community participation among LGBTQ people with diagnoses of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. This was followed by the showing of Reimagining Inclusion a short animated film created by study participants in a participatory process. We also heard key stakeholder perspectives on the film from The 519, the Sherbourne Health Centre, and CAMH.

We have developed a tip sheet to help you create inclusive spaces.


Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health


A term used by some people who have a mental health concern and/or who have used mental health services or programs. Some feel that they have survived a mental health concern. Others see themselves as having survived the mental health system--depending on their experiences.



Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer



An umbrella term referring to people who do not embrace traditional binary gender norms of masculine and feminine and/or whose gender identity or expression does not fit with the one they were assigned at birth; can refer to transgender, transitioned and transsexual people, as well as some two-spirit people. 



The assumption, in individuals or in institutions, that everyone is heterosexual, and that heterosexuality is natural and superior.

More LGBTQ Terminology