New research by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Sherbourne Health Centre sheds light on the mental health of bisexual people in Ontario by looking at the context of mental health issues in this group. The Bisexuality, Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being Research Project also found that the existing mental health services do not adequately meet the needs of bisexual people.
The Ontario-wide project evaluated the experiences of bisexual people based on three main determinants of health: social factors, including biphobia and stigma; interpersonal relationships, including those with the LGBT community, the workplace and partners; and internal factors, including self-acceptance and identity struggles. The results demonstrated that social biphobia and stereotypes about bisexuals have far reaching negative effects on the mental health and well-being of bisexual people.
Though previous research shows that bisexual people are more likely to seek help with mental health issues than heterosexuals, many who were surveyed expressed frustration when interacting with the healthcare system.
"Bisexual people we interviewed felt that therapists and other health care providers need a better understanding of the continuums of sexuality and gender," said Dr. Lori Ross, Scientist with CAMH's Social, Equity and Health Unit who conducted research on the project. Ross also says that gaps in the system may point to the need for specialized clinical training. "Many participants reported that they felt that some queer-friendly therapists were uncomfortable dealing with certain mental health issues, while mainstream mental health clinicians did not have an understanding of the specific challenges faced by bisexual people."
While many of the respondents also had positive experiences with queer-friendly clinicians, the report shows that the lack of understanding of bisexuality also extends into the queer community. "Some clinicians, even those from the LGBT community, have difficulty seeing bisexuality as a healthy and legitimate sexual orientation," said Anna Travers, former Program Manager LGBT Services, Sherbourne Health Centre. Several of the people suggested that a website is needed listing providers and services that are clinically and culturally competent in serving bisexual clients. I am happy to say that this is something that is now being addressed through the soon-to-be-launched Rainbow Health Ontario website"
The research explores these problems, along with other difficulties regarding stereotypes about bisexuality and acceptance among friends, families and the public. It makes a number of suggestions for fostering a more inclusive and effective mental health system for bisexual people, including education for providers and the public along with increased resources for mental health.
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