Researching for LGBTQ Health

Identifying Obstacles to Accessing Mental Health Services by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and 2-Spirit (LGBTQ2) Homeless Youth through Brokered Dialogue

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and 2-Spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth are overrepresented in the homeless youth population across Canada, but underrepresented in homeless shelters. Although we have known about this issue for over two decades, it has been neglected and inadequately addressed for far too long. This issue has been left out of important dialogue on youth homelessness until fairly recently.

We know that LGBTQ2S youth are not only at a higher risk of homelessness, but also face increased risk of physical and sexual exploitation, mental health difficulties, substance use, and suicide, and commonly experience homophobic and transphobic violence within the shelter system.

The lack of specialized services and knowledge regarding sub-populations of homeless youth make it increasingly challenging for youth to find support and have their needs met. Specialized services are crucial in meeting the needs of homeless youth and decreasing the threat of violence and discrimination. Not only do LGBTQ2 youth experience challenges when trying to access shelters, but also when trying to access appropriate health care services. Barriers such as discrimination, not having a health card, homophobia, transphobia, and too few clinics that are LGBTQ2S positive and knowledgeable make it difficult to find health care services.

This study investigates the different perspectives of key informants with lived experience and professional work experience in the area of youth homeless services and LGBTQ2S youth homelessness. The study focuses on LGBTQ2S youth homelessness, mental health, and access to mental health services. This work is necessary in the context of a critical public health and social justice problem, as well as a major gap in knowledge.

This study employs the Brokered Dialogue (BD) method, which is a participatory, qualitative method that uses film to help promote respectful dialogue amongst individuals who have different perspectives on an issue and who would not normally speak to one another (Parsons & Lavery, 2012). The Brokered Dialogue method consists of a series of interviews in which each participant has the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with other participants, to pose questions of them, and to react to their contributions, through the use of film. In this study, Brokered Dialogue is used to document the experiences and perspectives of a group of key informants with regards to LGBTQ2S youth homelessness and mental health and access to mental health services, and to break down the barriers to respectful communication among the various key informants.

This project will advance mental health equity, by focusing on an under-researched inner city population, as well as community engagement, partnerships, and KT.


  1. To identify services, supports and interventions accessed by LGBTQ2S homeless youth experiencing mental health difficulties.
  2. To identify the barriers to accessing mental health services experienced by LGBTQ2S homeless youth.
  3. Discover ways to improve access to mental health services in an effort to reduce the health inequalities, barriers, and stigma experienced by LGBTQ2S homeless youth in Toronto.
  4. To identify areas in which the perspectives of key informants diverge, regarding access and barriers to mental health care for LGBTQ2S youth experiencing homelessness.
  5. To facilitate respectful dialogue amongst the key informants participating in this study and to help create an opportunity for learning and better understanding of each others’ interests and perspectives.

Team Members:

  • Lori Ross (Supervisor)
  • Sean Kidd, CAMH (Supervisor)
  • Jim Lavery, St. Michael’s Hospital (Research partner/Advisor)
  • Janet Parsons, St. Michael’s Hospital (Research partner/Advisor)
  • Amy Siegel (Filmmaker)

Main Contact:

Alex Abramovich

Funding Source:

CAMH Community-Based Research Post-Doctoral Program

Project Outcomes: