MindOUT Talks Bi
We caught up with Kitty from MindOUT, Brighton’s LGBT mental health project, to talk about their bi-specific work.
Hello! Tell us about the project?
MindOut is a mental health service run by and for lesbians, gay men, bisexual, trans, and queer people based in Brighton.
We provide advice and information, advocacy, a peer support group programme, wellbeing activities and events, a peer mentoring service, an out of hours online chat service and a food & allotment project.
We also work around the country to deliver LGBTQ Affirmative Practice training for Mental Health professionals and seek to influence national policy & practice
There are a number of social and/or support groups out there for bi people. What’s the one MindOUT offers and how does it work?
MindOut offers support around mental health. Therefore, the bi group is run by and for bi people who have experience with mental health issues. It offers a safe and judgement free space for those with such experiences. The group is a closed group, meaning an assessment is required beforehand by a member of staff to gage what service users want to get out of the group and whether they will be suitable for the space. The group has a maximum of eight spaces and will run for nine weeks. As opposed to a ‘drop-in’ style group the same people attend every week. This helps to emphasise a feeling of safety because faces become familiar and attendees are able to build a good rapport with the others in the group. After the nine weeks are up we would hope to continue the group based on how popular it may or may not be.
People might be familiar with MIND – is your service only open to people who are having mental health issues?
We are separate from the organisation MIND, and someone does not need a formal diagnosis to attend a MindOut group, but it is intended for those that identify as having or have mental health issues. Unfortunately, LGBT+ who struggle with their mental health are not hard to come by. Bisexual people report poorer mental health than either heterosexuals or lesbians and gay men, higher levels of anxiety and depression, more current adverse events and a higher frequency of financial problems*. Research published in the Journal of Public Health in 2013 also showed that bisexual women are a third more likely to have self-harmed than lesbians, and nearly two-thirds more likely to report an eating problem.
Are the things that have come up different with bi clients than for your other services?
Bi clients frequently reiterate feelings of isolation. Often they feel excluded from both heterosexual and gay spaces. This is often due to prejudiced ideas such as bisexuals being confused, greedy and sexually promiscuous. But also there is a real issue with bisexual erasure, bisexual people are often portrayed as straight people experimenting or gay people too afraid to come out of the closet. Often they are caught in a limbo where they are too queer for the straight world and too straight for the queer world. Stonewall reported that bisexuals are less likely to feel comfortable being out at work than lesbians or gay men and less likely feel workplace LGBT networks were helpful. This reflects how isolation and prejudice can affect bisexual people’s everyday lives.
And is there any other upcoming bi work with MindOUT?
Currently we do not have any bi-exclusive plans other than the group (which will hopefully change once Pride is out the way). But one of the most important things is that we are always working in a bi-inclusive way every day and always ready to challenge biphobia. Bi people are running our services and sharing our spaces and this is what is important to us.
Finally – is Brighton the only place with a project like this in the UK?
This I cannot be sure of. But what I am sure of is that we have had a lot of bi people come forward saying that they are excited by this new group because they feel there is nothing out there for them and this to me speaks volumes about the number of bi spaces that are available. I do also know that we are unique as one of the few organisations that is dedicated solely to the mental health of LGBT+ people.
Thanks and keep up the good work! How do people get in touch?
Contact us on 01273 234839 or email [email protected]
* for more on this see King, M and McKeown, E, 2003
This article first appeared in Bi Community News magazine issue 143.