Ahead of the International Mental Health day, 10 October, APCOM along with country partner organisations in Indonesia (GWL-INA), Philippines (TLF-Share), Singapore (Oogachaga) and Thailand (The Poz Home Center) are proud to announce a regional project to develop regional strategy on mental health issues faced by LGBTQI communities supported by the Community Building Funds of the China Medical Board (CMB).
“International studies have long established that LGBTQI communities are at a higher risk of mental health issues, and various community research and data collection particularly during Covid-19 highlighted the lack of access and mental services for our LGBTQI communities,”said Midnight, APCOM Executive Director and Equity Initiative Fellow, he added,
“with this project, we hope to bring a more robust community generate evidence to integrate mental health services for our communities.”
APCOM’s research on Surveying LGBTQI+ situation in Thailand during Covid-19 Pandemic, and collection of data and stories for #CoronaAPCOMpassion emergency funding, APCOM Special COVID-19 Newsletter Series; LGBTQI and HIV community Reflect, Reorganise & Rebuild, and APCOM staff share their activities for maintaining good mental health – the key risk factors affecting their mental health are social stigma and discrimination due to their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and their mental health are further influenced by many other social determinants such as:
- Health status (HIV and Sexual Transmitted Infection status)
- Access to healthcare service of decent quality
- Housing security related to family rejection of their SOGIESC
- Unemployment and job security
- Access to education
“In our experience of supporting Singapore’s LGBTQI community since 1999, we have found that mental health issues have always been part of our work, and increasingly becoming more important in recent years. There exists a whole range of diverse interconnected issues, unmet needs, and potential for service development in this area, not just in Singapore but also in the region.”Leow Yangfa (he/him), Executive Director, Oogachaga, Singapore
“People living with HIV are getting older as they now live longer, as the mortality rate is decreasing. Elder LGBTQI living with HIV experiences non-communicable disease, they are feeling the pressure of economic, social and family issues – it makes them more vulnerable to mental health. Therefore, mental health services for LGBTQI living with HIV should start now.”Somchai Phromsombut, Executive Director, The Poz Home Center, Thailand
Compared to that of sexual health services, the provision of mental health services for target communities in Southeast Asia is limited. Where mental health services are made available by CBOs or HCPs, they are often provided as a secondary component to sexual health services with very limited resources. To a large extent, mental health issues are commonly reported among LGBTQI persons living with HIV, there are also many who are not living with HIV and are facing poor access to mental health service at the CBOs or HCPs.
As part of our efforts to build the capacity of CBOs in the region to provide comprehensive health programmes and services to the target communities, APCOM and partners want to better equip the CBOs and HCPs in Southeast Asia to provide more specialised mental healthcare services to target communities. We aim to work with our local CBOs and HCPs partners in Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, develop regional strategic and country level plans and build their capacity.
Through this initial phase of the project, we aim to:
- Develop understanding of mental health issues faced by target communities
- Produce regional and country level reports, with high level recommendations to address the mental health issues together with our partnering organisations, both at the regional level and country level.
- Promote awareness among CBOs and HCPs working with target communities in Southeast Asia about mental health issues affecting target communities in Southeast Asia
“Mental health should be an integral part of our overall health and wellbeing, and mental health services are very much needed in Indonesia especially for people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.”Slamet, Executive Director, GWL-INA, Indonesia
“Ill mental health such as depression, anxiety and suicide ideation are experienced more by young queers, transgender and gender diverse persons than their straight and gender-conforming peers. Armed with strategic information, communities and government institutions must work together to address LGBTQIA mental health issue and the social factors that nurture the problem.”Ferdie Buenviaje, President, TLF Sexuality, Health and Rights Educators Collective (TLF SHARE), Philippines
The research partner for the project is the Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University. They have expertise in LGBTQI, HIV/AIDS, sexual reproductive health and rights, drug users, sex workers, key population, sexual behaviour, women’s health and rights, and stigma and discrimination.
“LGBTQI people experience mental health struggles. Research found that LGBTQI of all ages disproportionately are suffering instances of stress and poor mental health due to social discrimination, family rejection, harassment, and fear of violence, etc. Still, the availability and accessibility to mental health services for LGBTQI is limited in many settings. This project is, therefore, very necessary in terms that it will address the mental health issues faced by LGBTQI people and also advocate for the service to be more available and accessible. The research part of the project is expected to provide strong evidences to support the advocacy,”commented Asst. Prof Dusita Phuengsamran, Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University, Thailand.