Story Category: Innovation

Intersectionality, mental health & COVID-19

Intersectionality is one of the key frameworks that informs VTMH’s work.

We explain this in our guiding principles documents. It underpins our companion LGBTIQIntersect website. It also helps us understand inequality in the context of COVID-19.

An intersectional approach

Involves acknowledging, responding to, reflecting on, and designing services with the following understandings in mind:

  • Life is multi-dimensional and complex; we expect many stories
  • People cannot be explained by single categories, such as gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability
  • Identity emerges from interactions between environment, social dynamics and cultural and political contexts
  • To understand people’s experiences, we must also understand structures and systems, inclusive of institutional level factors
  • Individuals and communities can experience privilege and oppression simultaneously
  • Structural inequity increases exclusion and leads to experiences of marginalisation
  • Relationships involve power dynamics; institutional accountability involves recognising and negotiating relations of power
  • Critical reflection increases awareness, about ourselves, our position in relation to others, our professional roles and our organisations

What are the implications?

Sense of self and a sense of community are interconnected experiences. 

Single category identity markers can create limitations for individuals and communities. An intersectional lens can help us deepen our understanding of identity, lived experience and mental health. 

People who have may identities associated with reduced social power can experience multiple and unique forms of discrimination that cannot be conceptualised separately. We can look beyond individual social locations or identities, to focus on the points of intersection.

Creating a mental health system that is responsive to the needs and experiences of all members of the Victorian community, requires us to examine structures and systems and institutional level factors that promote health access and health equity.  

We are finding ways to apply an intersectional lens to mental health practice in the midst of system level mental health reform in Victoria. 

Want to deepen your knowledge?

Here are some helpful resources to explore:

Hankivsky, O. (2014). Intersectionality 101. Canada: The Institute for Intersectionality Research & Policy.

Hankivsky, O. (2020). Using intersectionality to understand who is most at risk of COVID-19 [Webpage].

Hankivsky, O. & Kapilashrami, A. (2020). Beyond sex and gender analysis: an intersectional view of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and response [Policy brief].