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22 September 2008
Bisexuals on the outer
by George Atkinson

New research by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Sherbourne Health Centre in Canada suggests that social biphobia and stereotyping about bisexuals have far reaching negative effects on the mental health and well-being of bisexual people. It was also found that existing mental health services do not adequately meet the needs of bisexual people.

The project sought to evaluate the experiences of bisexual people based on three main determinants of health: social factors (including biphobia and stigma), interpersonal relationships (including those with the LGBT community, the workplace and partners), and internal factors (including self-acceptance and identity struggles).

Though previous research showed that bisexual people are more likely to seek help with mental health issues than heterosexuals, many who were surveyed expressed frustration when interacting with the healthcare system. "Bisexual people we interviewed felt that therapists and other health care providers need a better understanding of the continuums of sexuality and gender," said CAMH's Dr. Lori Ross.

Ross also says that gaps in the system may point to the need for specialized clinical training. "Many participants reported that they felt that some queer-friendly therapists were uncomfortable dealing with certain mental health issues, while mainstream mental health clinicians did not have an understanding of the specific challenges faced by bisexual people," she noted.

A number of respondents complained that this lack of understanding of bisexuality also extended into the queer community. "Some clinicians, even those from the LGBT community, have difficulty seeing bisexuality as a healthy and legitimate sexual orientation," said Anna Travers, from the Sherbourne Health Centre.

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Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

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