World Mental Health Day: How is Queer Life Space helping young queer people to deal with mental health issues

INTERVIEW Queer Life Space

World Mental Health Day is observed on 10th October every year, to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilize efforts in support of mental health.

We had the opportunity to talk with Chris Holleran, Founder, Queer Life Space to closely understand their functioning and the challenges they have to overcome on a daily basis.

Queer Life Space provides evidence-based training & mental health services for the LGBTQ+ community. For queer people. By queer people.

What is the meaning of mental health for you?

AChris – For me, it comes down to having a healthy connection that interacts psychologically with who we are as individuals, and the many complexities of who we are, but understanding, accepting, and celebrating those complexities, as well as connecting to others. Our interpersonal connections to the outside world. So I tend not to focus on symptomatology as much as on strengths.

What I see as symptoms related to mental health are what is breaking down here for this person? How are they feeling disconnected from aspects of themselves or from other people in their interpersonal environment? And they think that mental health is very individualized. There isn’t normal mental health.

You have to take every individual’s unique set of life circumstances into consideration when thinking about what mental health looks like for that person.

Do you think all this digital connectivity has impacted personal connection and mental well-being?

AChris – There’s a lot of research about social media and the negative impact that can have on the mental health of individuals. And I think what is problematic about our use of connection through tech, or social media is we weren’t really taught how to use these platforms from a psychologically minded perspective.

The point of social media is a connection, right? At least, that’s what these companies will tell you. However, a lot of times it’s about comparison, as opposed to connection. And I think that that’s where it can get really hard for people in terms of their mental health because they’re comparing their circumstances to the circumstances of other people that are oftentimes finally curating the experiences that they’re having on social media. And that can lead to feelings of depression and isolation and anxiety. I think it can be a tool for good, as far as connection is concerned, I just think that we’ve developed some bad habits as a society around how to use social media and these online platforms. There’s cyberbullying- something that’s very real. I can’t imagine having to deal with that as an adolescent or young adult growing up. And with these exciting new forays into these different ways of being with other people, it can come with pitfalls. And I don’t think that we have done a great job at thinking about that more intentionally.

What are the things we can do to take care of our mental health?

A: I think another part of advancements in technology is the capitalistic culture that we’re a part of. We’re impacted by these culturally contextual situations that we find ourselves in.

I think that the pandemic has really highlighted a lot of these issues. Our scarcity fears, our quest for continued productivity, and work performance, and it being really the way that we value.

We need to figure out a way fast. It could be something that is community-based. It could be personal; it could be exercising which is really an important part of self-care.

It could be taking breaks from social media and tech in general. So it’s up to the individual to figure out what works for them, personally. But I think that we all could be having a lot more help from institutions that are in place if they were coming from a more psychologically minded perspective.

How do you interact with your beneficiaries and create an impact in their lives?

A: So we are different than other mental health facilities in the city of San Francisco in the greater Bay Area. We are truly like a grassroots agency. We don’t have a lot of funding. So we rely very heavily on fundraising. And we have done this to really detach from what sometimes feels like a city-imposed or bureaucratic view of what mental health services should look like. And a lot of times, , not to not to talk badly about the city, but more often than not, those ideas are very, they’re dictated by cost, and what’s cost-effective.

I think something that we’ve done well is to create a community space that feels safe and inviting to everybody. In the queer community, recognizing all the intersectionality of identities that make up the individuals that compose the queer community, and that’s why it’s such a vibrant and exciting community is because there is all of that diversity within. So I’d say that those are some ways that I feel that queer Life Spaces is special, and addressing the mental health concerns, concerns of our client beneficiaries.

What are some of the myths and misconceptions that are still prevailing today in our society?

A: Chris – I think one that’s obvious is that treatment is for folks that are severely ill, or that there is that needs to be met before seeking help from a therapist can be useful. While certainly in those instances, it is useful and sometimes quite necessary, people come to treatment for all sorts of different reasons, personal growth, dealing with transitions, dealing with environmental stressors.

Another thing I want to clarify is that this conversion therapy movement to provide psychological services that cure individuals from being queer is not effective. It really doesn’t matter the age of the person, and I’m sure you’re hearing about these political initiatives in different states to ban conversion therapy for minors, and free for you. But it can also be quite damaging to adults as well, of all ages. So stay away from conversion therapy, that’s just a fact.

And one other thing, I have one thing that I would consider a fact because it’s based on a fair amount of clinical research is the therapeutic relationship, the alliance that you have with the person that you’re working with, and how well you feel understood and heard with that person, or by that person, and how safe you feel with them, is one of the highest predictors of a successful treatment episode. And so, I think that that’s something that’s just important for people to remember, in thinking about initiating mental health treatment and to find someone who feels like them.

How can corporate volunteers contribute to Queer Life Space and mental health at large?

AChris – One is supporting the community in general. It’s important to have some kind of connection to the community, like volunteer, go to events, go to shows, go to art openings, learn about the community and the struggles that we go through. I think that helps to create a more knowledgeable and well-rounded ally, in terms of folks that are interested in education and can help us.

In addition to that, it’s been a tough year and a half to be a nonprofit. During the pandemic, people are struggling in a lot of different ways. So a lot of those ways are financial. So, fundraising, which is such a huge cornerstone of how we’re able to provide the services that we provide has been difficult.

So maybe just donating money could be a real help to us, particularly during this period, where you’ve really been struggled to keep services going virtually, which we’ve been able to do, we haven’t had an interruption to services, through the pandemic. But there are a lot of local and national nonprofits that are doing really great work and are also struggling during this period. So there’s a lot of opportunities out there.

What are a few things that you wish more people knew about mental health?

AChris – We are here in this together, it’s been, I think maybe after this year there is a more poignant statement than ever before to recognize how we really are and how much we must depend on each other, for support just to get through the day. I think that in a moment of extreme challenge, as we have been through not just with, the pandemic, but with the spotlight that has been shown on racial inequality and misogyny, and violence towards women, and towards trans people of color, and all of these different communities. Just trying to connect with a sense of empathy for what it is like to walk around in the world, maybe not having the level of privilege that you might normally have or not feeling as safe as you normally feel. And I think exercises like that through really trying to empathize with someone’s experience into perspective-taking and learning. We have a better understanding of how we can help out our fellow individuals in the world.

Any message you’d like to leave for potential volunteers?

AChris – It’s our 10-year anniversary. Maybe that’s worth noting.

We’ve been around for 10 years. We have provided over 30,000 services over the course of our 10 years of operation. We also have a training program where we train therapists who are in school and are in their graduate programs through a practical placement.

We’ve trained over 100 therapists who will be going into the community providing queer firming services and hopefully helping a lot of people in the future. So that’s another aspect of our work.

We need to mainstream mental health, which means mainstreaming mental health not only in the health sector but also in other sectors. Mental health is a cross-cutting issue specially among young LGBTQ+ people, so it goes across all the sectors, and we need to mainstream mental health everywhere so that no matter whoever faces these issues, can come forward and accept that they need help. Asking for help will make us more empathetic and stronger as a community.

Celebrate World Mental Health Day with Queer Life Space International.

You can help Queer Life Space by participating via Goodera’s virtual volunteering experience. The experience is powerful and engaging, making it an excellent choice for getting you started on your virtual volunteering adventure.

Interested? Reach out to us here.

Are you a nonprofit looking for volunteers? We can help! Talk to us.

Use #HereForYou on LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram to tell us how you are celebrating World Mental Health Day and get featured on our platform of 50K+ Audience!

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