Educating for justice at the intersections of sexual health and mental health

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Image: Modified from an image used with the permission of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.

Ashling Ligate is a registered nurse in an acute care unit of a psychiatric hospital and Frédérique Chabot is the director of health promotion for Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights. They speak with Scott Neigh about the intersections of sexual health and mental health, about the "Mind Your 'Business'" Sexual and Reproductive Health Week campaign, and about the ways in which working with frontline health care providers can help to reduce some of the systemic barriers that stand between a range of marginalized people and health outcomes which are based on principles of social justice.

One important manifestation of the many different forms of injustice that shape our world is uneven access to health and wellbeing. In practice, there are a lot of different ways that this plays out – different groups are impacted, through different mechanisms, and on different scales. Which means there are also a lot of different approaches for intervening that can push back against this expression of injustice, reduce harm to marginalized people, and increase space for equitable thriving.

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights is an organization that works both within Canada and globally to promote health, wellbeing, and rights related to sexuality and reproduction. Following on the diverse areas of work of its three predecessor organizations, which merged in 2014 to form Action Canada, its work covers a broad spectrum. It includes directly providing certain kinds of support, referrals, and information; working with other groups and organizations on a range of campaigns using a collaborative, movement-building approach; and policy advocacy related to things like access to reproductive health care (including abortion), LGBT rights, comprehensive sexuality education, and more.

One important aspect of its work is an annual Sexual and Reproductive Health Week campaign. They used to do it in a way that focused on the general public. These days, though – for all that they still welcome and encourage public conversation about the issues – they are most interested in reaching health care providers and others involved in the health system. The goal now is to use this annual campaign as a tool to address practices within the health system that contribute to barriers and discrimination faced by particular populations, which can be one of the many factors that can shape inequitable and unjust health outcomes.

The theme of the 2018 edition of the campaign will be "Mind Your Business'" and its focus will be on "the intersections between mental health and sexual health, and all the complex ways in which sexual and mental wellness are connected." The campaign will run between February 12th and 16th. Action Canada will be releasing a range of educational materials targeted at health care professionals, including posters, a podcast, a handbook, and a range of online resources, all of which will continue to be available for the balance of the year. As well, there will be events across the country during the week of the campaign.

The organizers of the campaign hope that by working with frontline health professionals and others involved in the health system in this way, they can spark the kinds of conversations and learning that are necessary to shift practices and thereby reduce barriers in the health system that have historically kept some people from getting the care they need. They understand this as one kind of intervention in a broader spectrum of work towards changes that are necessary for people who face barriers at the intersection of mental health and sexual health, including all of the other kinds of advocacy and campaign work done by Action Canada, but also broader society-wide changes around things like access to affordable housing and adequate income.

Image: Modified from an image used with the permission of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.


Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact [email protected] to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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