Pride 2022:

A Listening Session With MindOut LGBTQ+ Mental Health Service

To mark this year’s Pride celebrations, we hosted a listening session exploring ways of supporting LGBTQ+ people with Brighton-based charity MindOut, who specialise in providing mental health services to LGBTQ+ communities.

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Pride month is more than a time for celebration. It’s also a period for reflection on things we can and must do better for the LGBTQ+ community. And that begins with what businesses can do. Paul Smith is starting by partnering with MindOut, a Brighton-based charity doing everything they can to champion mental health support through peer mentoring, crisis support, counselling, community outreach, advocacy, online chat support and much more. Alongside a donation (50% of the net proceeds from the sale of PS Paul Smith Happy products from 13th to 19th June, 2022 will go to MindOut), we also hosted a private panel and listening session to explore the issues facing the LGBTQI+ community, mental health awareness and allyship.

After introductions, a wide-ranging, productive and, at times, emotional discussion between the panellists followed touching on topics including the rolling back of trans rights, the alarming suicide and self-harm rate in the trans and LGBTQ+ communities, HIV status and stigma, LGBTQ+ history, systemic racism and the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, the lack of access to adequate medical and mental health care, combatting depression, dealing with prejudice and the legacy of Section 28 in the UK, as well as defining what mental health means and what support looks like today.

To capture the conversation, we also enlisted the help of photographer and content creator Lucas Ruska Martin (he/him) @lucasruskamartin who snapped some incredible portraits of the participants. You’ll find them below, alongside snippets of the discussion in their own words and more information on each panellist.

Calvin Stovell (he/him), People Of Colour Development Manager, MindOut

Responsible for leading the charity’s anti-racism work, Calvin’s mental health journey has been shaped largely by his experiences growing up in another country. Originally from Bermuda, he has struggled with feeling like an outsider.

“I didn’t have anybody to emulate growing up. I felt very isolated, and I thought I was living in perfect camouflage. But I really wasn’t. Even to this day, it’s still quite terrifying. Being a black man, I always have to consider how often we’re seen as perpetrators or violent or sexualised. So, it’s about how to stick to our authentic selves and protect who we are as people… Taking back some ownership and just being comfortable in the skin I’m in has been very helpful, as well as surrounding myself with people who validate, celebrate and appreciate me.”

Bobbi Pickard (she/her), MindOut Ambassador & Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, bp

After experiencing a really bad crash in her mid 40s, Bobbi contemplated suicide. Choosing to transition instead, she says, was the best thing that she ever did. It also meant she had to approach her mental health from a different perspective.

“Part of the journey of transitioning is re-examining your mental world. Understanding what’s brought you to that point and understanding your triggers and weaknesses. I think about mental health as a dance floor. You know, I’m dancing around a little bit but some things in life have bashed some bloody great holes in it. Some of those holes can be fixed, through therapy and talking through it with yourself and others. But it’s really important that you understand yourself realistically as a person, so you know where those weak spots are.”

Ophelia Payne (in drag: she/her; out of drag: he/him), MindOut Ambassador & Drag Artist

After losing her partner to suicide, Ophelia, an ambassador for MindOut, was looking for something that would allow her to connect with the LGBTQ+ community. Her work with the charity has done just that, but she’s quick to point out that the community can be a challenging place itself sometimes.

“I lost myself for quite a few years. Finding drag allowed me to reconnect with myself. But also, the work that I did with MindOut, especially during lockdown, I was able to process that trauma I had been through… it’s brought me to a much more positive place… I ran away from the community for a very long time, and I found it hard to re-engage. I think just pushing myself to do things like drag enabled me to engage with it in a very different way. I felt able to go to clubs and pubs and not get carried away and not do stupid things for my own physical and mental health.”

Sakeema Peng Crook (uses name as pronouns), Activist, Dancer & Model

As a campaigner for Black Lives Matter and black trans person existing in what Sakeema charactersises as a “capitalist, cisheteropatriarchal, white supremacist society”, Sakeema says it’s absolutely paramount that we continue to have conversations about LGBTQ+ mental health year-round and put in the necessary action to make change realised – not just talking once a year in June.

“I think we move forward by having conversations year round AND putting in the necessary action to make change realised… not just a talk during Pride month. Pride is a lived experience. We need the wealth to be redistributed and frequent opportunities outside of this month as well as mental health support. We can start by donating to black trans folks go fund me campaigns. It can also feel dehumanising to be wheeled out when pride is trending. [Being part of the LGBTQI+ community] is just one facet of our being’s entire experience, let’s expand our visions.”

For more information about MindOut and the vital, life-changing work they’re doing, click here.

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