Freedom to Get Real and Say, I Belong

May 7, 2020

Canadian Mental Health Week 2020 – #GetReal Campaign

By Kiana Reyes, I Belong Program Facilitator

Newcomers to Canada who identify as LGBTQIA+ experience unique challenges that create barriers to accessing services, long before COVID-19 even came into our lives.

Ongoing issues such as limited English proficiency, and/or unknown status, add to uncertainty and confusion. As well, LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual/Agender) newcomers are now spending time in isolation while in a new and unfamiliar country with limited options to meeting people.

It’s national Mental Health Awareness Week (May 4-10), with a #GetReal themed campaign — about getting real to express how we feel and to lean on each other for support.

MOSAIC’s I Belong program aims to do just that — support the unique needs of LGBTQIA+ immigrants with counselling, as well as finding resources and support services, safe housing and employment.

One of our I Belong members has been unable to see his family in Ecuador. Plans to visit his mother in the summer were cancelled, and he has been torn with worry about the pandemic here, as well as back home. Additionally, he is having to look for a new place to live by the end of June, and distancing rules are creating added difficulties to find new living options.

Although he’s been experiencing all of these barriers and difficulties, he’s been extremely resilient and has continued to be active in the community, especially with our I Belong program, Vancouver Association for Survivors (VAST) and Rainbow Refugee.

He says he’s reminded that although there’s a global pandemic happening, he still has a caring community to which he can proudly say he belongs.

MOSAIC’s I Belong program is here to help. The program continues to provide peer and group counselling support, as well as one-on-one counselling. Other resources such as the Trans Newcomers Resource Hub provides information and support to newcomer trans communities, including resources, and peer and mentor support.

The I Belong Peer Support Group meets every second Monday of the month at 5:30pm, and the Counselling Group Support every last Monday of the month at 6:30pm. To register for our Zoom groups, or individual support, email or call 236-521-7082

News article (TheTyee by Moira Wyton): COVID-19 is Proving Particularly Perilous for LGBTQIA+ Individuals: