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The EDI Awards recognize efforts to improve trans and gender-diverse mental health care

By Avery Sharpe, March 24 2023

The fifth annual Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Awards were hosted just over a month ago, which celebrates the hard-working students and faculty of the University of Calgary who are committed to making the campus community more diverse and inclusive. 

The awards were divided into four categories — one each for a student, faculty member, post-doctoral fellow and a team. The team award went to Dr. Brae Anne McArthur, Michaela Patton and Caroline Luszawski, who are all part of a research team devoted to improving trans and gender-diverse mental health services. 

Their work has culminated in a workshop designed to help train and educate clinical psychology students in trans and gender-diverse mental health care.

“The students of the clinical psychology program had highlighted a need for more experience learning about and more experience clinically with diverse populations,” said Michaela Patton, a first-year PhD student in the Department of Psychology, remarking on a survey that was conducted on the U of C clinical psychology students.

With the education of students in mind, Patton jumped on the opportunity to make a difference when discussing the situation with one of the co-founders of the Skipping Stone Foundation, Lindsay Peace.

“We got to talking about how a lot of the mental health resources were, unfortunately, being cut due to financial constraints of the not-for-profit organization,” Patton explained. “I jumped on the opportunity to connect her with our clinical psychology program.”

Following that discussion, the initiative was born and the research team’s first workshop took place last May. Now, the team is looking to expand their project.

“We just received a Taylor Institute Teaching grant to evaluate [the workshops] over the next three years so that we can continue to improve and evolve the nature of the workshops and their effectiveness,” said McArthur, director of the U of C psychology clinic. 

McArthur also mentioned that the team is planning to host another workshop in May and they hope to use their resources to extend the workshops to other departments across campus within the next two to three years.

As for what winning the EDI award means to them, the team expressed gratitude not only for the recognition it provides but also for the awareness it raises for their project.

“We just want to get the word out that this resource is available for trans and gender-diverse people around Calgary,” Patton said. 

Besides spreading awareness, the campus community has several ways to materially support the team’s research as well. There are pride-themed T-shirts available for sale in the U of C Bookstore, and half of the proceeds from those go towards supplementing fees for trans and gender-diverse clients receiving care or accessing services at the clinics. 

“A T-shirt could mean a free session for someone, so they can make a pretty big impact,” Patton said.

Another way to get involved is at an upcoming fundraising event, which Luszawski, a clinical psychology student on the team, endorses highly.

“The Graduate Student Association is running a charity drag show,” said Luszawski.  “It’s happening on March 25, and all the proceeds are being donated to Skipping Stone to help them with any initiatives on their side of things.”

In their closing remarks, the research team expressed extensive gratitude for the efforts of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, as well as for the Skipping Stone Foundation’s important contributions to their project.

“It’s thanks to their lived experience and knowledge that they are sharing with us that we are able to make this happen, and without them, I don’t think we would be here,” Luszawski said.

To purchase tickets and for more details on the GSA’s charity event, visit their website.  

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