This week is Pride Week in Vancouver. It’s a time when many LGBTQAIS2+ community members gather to celebrate their experiences, support one another, and advocate for equal rights and opportunities. Unfortunately, LGBTQAIS2+ people continue to cope with stigma and discrimination that causes harm both physically and to their mental health. Finding safe spaces where LGBTQAIS2+ people are not only accepted but also celebrated is important for members of this community, and celebrating pride can be an important step in healing. Read on to learn more about the social and mental health challenges facing LGBTQAIS2+ people and the opportunities for connection and support that celebrating Pride provides.

Increased risk of mental health challenges

Many members of the LGBTQAIS2+ community experience social isolation, harassment, and violence. “This stigmatized and discriminated-against status often leads to minority stress for LGBTQ+ people,” said Pamela Lannutti, PhD. Lannutti is a professor and the director of the Center for Human Sexuality Studies at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania.

“Minority stress is chronic psychological stress experienced because a person is a part of a stigmatized group,” she said. “Research has shown that it negatively affects personal and relational health and well-being.”

Experiencing stigma, discrimination, and other sources of sexual and gender minority stress can take a toll on LGBTQIA+ community members’ mental health and well-being.

“Members of the LGBTQ+ communities are at increased risk for a number of mental health issues, including but not limited to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, misuse of substances, hopelessness, and suicide,” syas Eddy Fagundo, PhD, CRC, CVE.

Fagundo is a certified rehabilitation counselor and the Senior Manager of Education Content at the American Counseling Association.

“Many of the mental health challenges LGBTQ+ people face is a result of the discrimination and lack of acceptance they experience on a daily basis,” he said.

A 2021 survey of LGBTQ youth conducted by the nonprofit organization The Trevor Project found that:

  • 94 percent reported that recent politics negatively affected their mental health
  • 72 percent reported symptoms of anxiety in the past 2 weeks
  • 62 percent reported symptoms of depression in the past 2 weeks
  • 42 percent had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year

Stigma and discrimination can also negatively affect the well-being of older LGBTQAIS2+ community members. A 2016 study found that when same-sex couples were exposed to campaigns against same-sex marriage, it negatively affected their psychological well-being and relationship satisfaction.

Some LGBTQAIS2+ community members experience intersecting forms of discrimination that may increase the challenges they face. For example, LGBTQAIS2+ community members who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) face racism as well as homophobia, transphobia, or both.

A 2020 review found that people who reported experiencing more than one form of discrimination were more likely to have symptoms of depression, compared to people who reported only one form of discrimination.

Many LGBTQAIS2+ people also face barriers to accessing support services, including mental health treatment.

“Data indicates that greater proportions of LGBTQ+ lack health insurance and have less access to care and preventive services, thus limiting their options for help,” said Fagundo.

Potential benefits of celebrating Pride

For LGBTQAIS2+ community members who face discrimination and social isolation, Pride events offer important opportunities for connection, support, and belonging.

This may bring mental health benefits. For example, a 2019 study found that LGBTQ people who reported more connectedness to the LGBTQ community were less likely to report suicidal behavior.

“Pride events help connect members of the LGBTQ+ population to others and to support within the community. They give members of the LGBTQ+ community an opportunity to participate in an event where they are totally included and accepted,” said Fagundo.

“These events may also help counter marginalization by making society more accepting of the LGBTQ+ population.”

Tips for making the most of Pride

How can members of LGBTQAIS2+ communities get involved and make the most of Pride?

Take part in a variety of events

Pride is a festive and fun time of year for many LGBTQAIS2+ people. It also provides a space for community mobilization and outreach.

“Pride can function as a way to meet and interact with other members of the community socially, to build and act upon political goals, to explore one’s own sexual and/or gender identity development, and just to have fun,” said Lannutti.

“To make the most out of Pride, I would encourage LGBTQ+ community members to take part in the full spectrum of Pride events,” she continued.

“Go to parties, but also consider volunteering for Pride-related community service, connecting with political groups, and learning more about the various LGBTQ+ organizations in your area who are present at Pride.”

Find your own way to mark the occasion

While some people love big parties and parades, others prefer smaller social gatherings in quieter settings. Both approaches can make for a meaningful Pride celebration.

Even if you want to attend a big event, you might not be able to do so. For example, people who are not out to their families or other community members might feel unsafe publicly participating in Pride. Scheduling conflicts, challenges with travel, or other barriers may also keep some people from large community events.

Fortunately, there are many ways to mark the occasion and celebrate your identity during Pride.

“Coming out to yourself and being authentic with others in a safe, intimate space is a way to celebrate your personal Pride,” said Jared Sulc, APC, a psychotherapist.

“This type of Pride celebration could be a personal self-care practice. Think yoga practice or meditation dedicated to your authentic self or a small gathering of friends you trust to watch your favorite [LGBTQAIS2+] film.”

Connect online

Taking part in online Pride events is another way to participate while connecting with fellow community members and LGBTQAIS2+ organizations.

“Connecting with others through social media platforms like Facebook, Discord, and Reddit can help promote the same feelings of safety, support, and community,” said licensed psychologist Taylor Stearns, PsyD.

“Also, many cities participating in Pride have added virtual events over the last 2 years that people can participate in from around the world.”

You may also find media focused on LGBTQAIS2+ topics to stream or download online. In some areas, local libraries and stores stock this media as well.

“Listen to affirming podcasts. Read books by LGBTQIA+ authors. Watch shows or movies made by queer folks,” suggested Lana Lipe, LCSW.

Foster inclusive spaces

Not all community members feel equally safe or welcome at Pride events.

“In some areas, BIPOC and other marginalized members of the LGBTQ+ community have been excluded from or discriminated against by Pride organizers. For these individuals, Pride may be a source of additional minority stress,” said Lannutti.

For white LGBTQAIS2+ community members, learning about the ongoing legacy of racism that affects people within and outside of LGBTQAIS2+ spaces is an important step in fostering more inclusive spaces.

Actively listening to marginalized members of LGBTQAIS2+ communities, supporting anti-racism initiatives, and mobilizing against other forms of discrimination may help create more equitable and empowering Pride events.

Celebrate safely

If you plan to drink alcohol during Pride, it’s important to practice moderation and avoid driving while intoxicated.

If you have a substance use disorder, avoiding alcohol and drugs during Pride can help support your recovery.

Sulc encourages people with substance use disorders to develop a proactive plan for supporting their recovery during Pride events.

“This plan could include taking a sober friend with you or planning to attend a support group after the event,” he told Healthline. “Give yourself permission to take a break [from the event] so you can get back in touch with your recovery if you become overwhelmed.”

Resources for LGBTQAIS2+people

Pride can be a great time to tap into support resources. Many community organizations engage in outreach efforts during this time.

“Pride is an opportunity to get out information about what’s available in communities. Educate yourself, find your resources, and do not ever think that you’re by yourself,” said Kat Hammer, a licensed clinical social worker.

Below are a list of resources available in BC and Canada. Depending on where you’re located, there may be local organizations that offer mental health services or social support to members of LGBTQAIS2+communities in your area:

  • Qmunity, BC’s queer, trans and two-spirit resource centre. They have created a community where LGBTQAIS2+ folx can come together to meet, guide, and support each other.
  • Vancouver Pride Society strives to produce inclusive, celebratory events, and advocate for LGBTQAI2S+ communities through an intersectional lens.
  • Pride at Work empowers Canadian employers to build workplaces that celebrate all employees regardless of gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Since many of us spend 40+ hours a week at work, it is imperative that work places provide a safe and inclusive space for all employees.
  • Youth Line offers confidential and non-judgemental peer support through our telephone, text and chat services.
  • The Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN) is an organization by and for Indigenous youth that works across issues of sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice.
  • Trans Lifeline is a nonprofit organization that runs a peer trans support hotline.

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition, talk with a doctor as soon as possible. They can refer you to a mental health specialist for counseling or other treatment.

“The process of counseling can decrease isolation and provide a safe space to express concerns,” said Hammer, “but it’s also important for people to ensure that they find a therapist that makes them feel safe and that they feel a connection with. They should try people out, and if someone doesn’t feel good, trust that.”

The takeaway

LGBTQAIS2+ community members have fought hard for equal rights, opportunities, and treatment — and the fight continues.

If you’re an LGBTQAIS2+ community member, you might find that stigma, discrimination, or other social challenges are negatively affecting your mental health and well-being.

Celebrating Pride and connecting with other members of LGBTQAIS2+ communities may provide an important sense of support and belonging. Pride is also a great time to seek out support resources and organizations for LGBTQAIS2+ people.

Whether you plan to attend Pride in person or connect from your own home, there are many ways to get involved.

At Evolve Wellness Centre, we strive to be a safe and inclusive space for everyone, regardless of gender, race, sexual-orientation or expression. If you are struggling and in need of support, email us at to book an appointment with Registered Professional Counselor, Deedee Poyner. Deedee offers both counselling and breathwork sessions as a way to help her clients move through challenges and find healing and support.