2 min

Dealing with depression

Fine-tuning new program for gay and bisexual men

An innovative mental health project is going to address widespread depression among gay and bisexual men in Ottawa.

The Men’s Project, a local non-profit organization, will run group therapy sessions beginning in the near future. “We don’t have an definite start date,” says Antoine Quenneville, clinical coordinator of the goup, “but it will most likely be Monday evenings.”

Quenneville, who has an MA in psychology and previously worked as an employee assistance counsellor, says that the genesis of the plan came from concerns outlined by Pink Triangle Services’ Wellness Survey in 2001, in which 37 percent of respondents identified themselves as suffering from depression.

“It has been identified as a need,” says Quenneville, “and that is why we have Trillium funding and also funding from the City of Ottawa.

“For gay and bisexual men, there are additional challenges that lead to feelings of alienation or discomfort in regular services. Our hope is that having a group that is identified as being for gay and bisexual men, it will create a sense of unity.”

Quenneville says that the initial period will establish a framework for what is a first for the Ottawa area. “The purpose of the pilot program is to set up services, to find out what works and what doesn’t work. We are in the process of fine-tuning the program for gay and bisexual men.

“We also hope to address some of the specific concerns of the gay and bisexual communities.”

Wellness Survey coordinator and PTS chairman Bruce Bursey elaborated on some of those concerns.

“One issue is accessibility to service; the question of just having services available. By that, I mean people who are experienced in terms of dealing with GLBT people. [Another concern is] having trust or confidence in the confidentiality of the information that is given. A lot of people don’t fully trust service providers.”

Bursey points out that this is especially true in the case of queer youth, who have not necessarily come out, but may still be using the same family doctor as their parents.

“Consequently,” explains Bursey, “many youth won’t even take the first step of going to their doctor.”

Bursey says that the Wellness Survey identified not only the high levels of depression itself in the community, but also a number of exacerbating factors.

“Homophobia and heterosexism in general are things that people have to deal with on a regular basis,” says Bursey.

After the 10-week pilot period is over, Quenneville says that the Men’s Project would like to continue to run the group, which fits its mandate.

“We are a non-profit organization,” explains Quenneville. “Our focus is providing services to men on health issues, primarily mental health concerns.

“We are hoping to continue the group,” he says, “at which point it may become a fee-for-service program.”