Salway, T., Ablona, A., Chang, H. J., Watt, S., Worthington, C., Grace, D., Wong, J., Ogilvie, G., Grennan, T., & Gilbert, M. (2021). Self-rated mental health among sexual health service clients during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, British Columbia, Canada. Preventive Medicine, 153, 106789. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2021.106789
The results and/or conclusions contained in the research do not necessarily reflect the views of all CITF members.
In a recent Short Communication in Preventive Medicine, CITF Leadership Group member Dr. Gina Ogilvie, CITF-funded researcher Dr. Daniel Grace and colleagues explore the mental health of sexual health service clients, an example of a marginalized community. They found that 55% of respondents self-rated their mental health as being poor at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mental health concerns are common among those who access sexual health (STI/HIV testing, prevention, and treatment) services. Often, clients in need of these services face other structural and societal barriers to care, resulting in sexual health services possibly serving as a substitute for those without routine primary care. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many of the services that are vital to marginalized communities. To better understand the mental health of sexual health service clients, researchers surveyed individuals who had accessed a provincial public health STI/HIV clinic or an online STI/HIV testing service called GetCheckedOnline between July and August 2020. Participants were asked questions about their mental health in the early months of the pandemic (March to mid-May 2020).
- 55% of respondents self-rated their mental health as being poor at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Among these respondents, the prevalence of poor self-rated mental health was 17% greater for Indigenous respondents and 12% lower for racialized non-Indigenous respondents, in both cases compared to white respondents.
- The prevalence was 8% greater among younger clients (<30 years of age) and 6% greater among those 30–39 years of age, as compared to respondents aged 40 and older.
- The prevalence was 17% greater for trans respondents, as compared with cisgender respondents.
The authors call for new ways to assess clients for mental health concerns and provide or refer clients to mental health resources. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the potential benefit of utilizing online services : this can also be an avenue through which mental health wellness could be promoted for online or virtual mental health support mechanisms.