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September 15, 2019 | by  | in News |
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VUW’s Own Gloria Fraser Develops Queer Mental Health Resources

 

VUW PhD student, Gloria Fraser, recently developed a set of leading queer mental health resources after three years of research.

 

Fraser (Ngāi Tahu) developed the resources as part of her PhD research on queer experiences in the mental health sector. Available in both English and te reo Māori, the resources look to help those in the mental health industry better support members of the queer community. 

 

Salient spoke to Fraser to find out more.

 

The three-year process has its roots in Fraser’s involvement with feminist organisations during her undergrad at the University of Auckland, seeing her queer friends experience mental health services.

 

The process was made up of three parts: interviewing members of the queer community, creating and undertaking a survey, and then making the resource itself. The survey saw 1600 people respond, “which was great.”

 

Fraser was quick to acknowledge the support of queer organisations in collaborating and consulting on the resource—especially as she’s not part of the community herself, and given the complexity and diversity of communities within the umbrella term of ‘queer’. 

 

Because of this, she pointed out that one of the main challenges was cutting the booklet down to a mere 54 pages. “It could have been as long as a textbook.”

 

Part of her research involved a thematic analysis of queer experiences to mental health services. It was found that structural barriers, like long wait times and referral rejections, are a big issue for queer access. 

 

Figuring out how to describe or present their identities to specialists is also a big issue, as is professionals then either over-focussing on those identities, or ignoring them altogether. 

 

The consequences of these barriers can be significant for the community itself. “A lot of the time, the responsibility for this care falls back onto their community. So people in remote communities end up supporting each other a lot [which] puts stress on people who are already under a lot of stress.”

 

Another problem is that the role of mental health professionals in gender-affirming healthcare is unclear in New Zealand.

 

“People end up feeling like they have to prove their gender, prove they’re really trans, trans enough… They’re telling the story they think they need to tell, rather than sharing what they need and then getting what they need,” says Fraser.

 

However, when it comes to queer access in Wellington, Fraser says that while “we’re known as probably one of the most queer-friendly places in New Zealand […] that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a long way to go.”

 

Finally, Fraser’s advice to those doing their own research? 

 

Other than “cat memes and baking,” she says, “you need to immerse yourself in the communities you’re working with as soon as possible. Don’t put it off.” Acknowledge the time it’s going to take, especially for building up relationships and trust.

 

With the full run of hard copies already sent out around the country, you can access Fraser’s resources online (for free) through organisations such as InsideOUT and RainbowYOUTH, as well as on the resource’s own website: http://rainbowmentalhealth.nz/

 

Photo caption: Gloria Fraser is cooler than you. Photo supplied. 

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