Pictured above: Meet CAMH’s Spiritual Care Services team: (L to R) Shawn Lucas, Manager (former minister), Liz Hood, Spiritual Care Provider (former teacher), and Brian Walsh, Supervisor (former banker).
By Patrick Callan, Communications Coordinator
One is a former minister. Another was a teacher. There’s also a former banker.
Like the patients, staff and families they help with spiritual, moral and existential distress, CAMH’s three-member Spiritual Care Services team comes from many different walks of life.
However, one thing the spiritual care providers—who help people find meaning, purpose, hope, connection, values, identity, and deal with losses—have in common is they are all members of the LGBTQ2S community.
Read on to find out how this has allowed them to connect with those they serve on a different level.
Does being LGBTQ2S influence how you provide spiritual care?
“One way that it can be tremendously helpful is when patients who are queer, or however they self-identify, come in not knowing what to expect and then see me,” says Liz Hood, Spiritual Care Provider. “It takes them a moment to undo all the layers of classic stereotypes that many queer and trans or gender diverse people often experience engaging with corporate religion. So, I think that’s a real asset, especially for the populations we serve, because it’s an additional layer of stigma—having mental health problems and being part of a marginalized group.”
“We might have a greater sense of empathy and definitely a preference for understanding,” adds Shawn Lucas, Manager, Spiritual Care Services. “When you’ve experienced some kind of discrimination it heightens your empathetic antenna to be more sympathetic. You can more readily identify or be supportive of people who have those challenges in their lives.”
What are some misconceptions about spiritual care providers?
“Assuming we’re straight or that our service is niche—for people with old school traditions,” says Brian Walsh, Supervisor, Spiritual Care Services.
“I have a lot of patients who come to me and either have outright homophobic ideas that they feel free to share because they assume my religious orientation is similar to theirs,” adds Shawn. “The other is people struggling with their own sexual orientation who are either afraid or ashamed to talk about it because they’re afraid of my judgement.”
What’s something people don’t know about the Spiritual Care team?
“We have created a lovely and supportive environment. We are such a small team and we work incredibly hard to cover a vast amount of bed spaces and geographic locations,” says Liz.
“Having such a small team and with all of us being LGBTQ2S, there’s a really good kind of safety and connection. There’s a greater freedom to ‘be’ here,” adds Shawn. “We have conversations that we might not have in other places.”
“Our own backgrounds lean so far outside the expected norms that we’re coming in with experiences of being the ‘other’ in more than one way,” adds Brian. “We have found and made community outside the expected norms, both within our private and professional lives, so there’s plenty of room for us to meet people who are really ‘other’ without being surprised because it’s familiar. It’s our norm.”
CAMH Spiritual Care Services offers visits, support and worship services in different faith traditions to patients and their families. To speak with a spiritual care provider, call 416 535-8501, ext. 32189, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.