Tau Wellness fills the missing middle of mental health care

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With funds from the Canadian Institute of Health Research, the organization began researching the state of gender-affirming healthcare.

ChrŸs Tei refers to Tau Wellness Cooperative as the “missing middle of mental health care”, with three wellness programs aimed to serve the needs all genders and generations.

The organization was founded initially as the Rainbow Health Cooperative in 2014 to support the transgender, Two-Spirit, non-binary and gender-diverse communities. They worked primarily as a community support group, fostering connections among individuals exploring gender identity and embodiment.

In 2018, thanks to a grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research, the organization formed the Our Community Health Initiative and launched a five-year community research project to explore the state of gender-affirming healthcare and investigating systemic change for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in British Columbia.

A milestone of the project was contributing to the the 2019 TransPulse Canada survey — which explored the health and well-being of trans and non-binary people across the country. The project was undertaken in partnership with the Victoria Native Friendship Centre and the University of Victoria.

“The goal was to generate research-grade, evidence-based research,” said Tei, executive director of the Tau Wellness Cooperative. “As an evidence-based community services developer, we use this quantitative and qualitative data to design our programs.”

She said that the transition to Tau Wellness reflects the organization’s new role as a “systemic change initiator,” transforming theories of systemic change into community improvements. The organization uses systems change investigation and participatory action research to tackle the root cause of social issues.

Both models work with communities to disrupt the major systems perpetuating inequities.

Using the research, the co-op now offers three pilot programs: 3 Mothers Medicine Camps, Community Wellness Worker Training program and Betwix’d Youth Performing Arts Collective.

“While we have offered part and pieces of the programs for the last three years, this is the first year that we have everything in place,” said Tei.

The co-op offers community-based workshops, with a focus on preventing, healing and reducing symptoms of trauma.

“We focus on trauma mitigation, a step beyond trauma informed,” she said.

The Victoria Foundation, through a grant from its Gender Equality Fund, has been a primary sponsor of the Betwix’d Youth Performing Arts Collective and an important contributor to 3 Mothers Medicine Camps program, said Tei.

Cross-generational community wellness programs offered at the 3 Mothers Medicine Camps include All-Gender Gentle Birthing and Living Eldership Arts and Crafts.

At the Betwix’d Youth Performing Arts program, gender-diverse women (13 to 19 years old) share their world through puppetry. They meet every second Friday, June to September and November to March, at the VicWest Community Centre, 521 Craigflower Rd.

The programs are administered by 12 facilitators and serve up to 10 couples, 20 (Indigenous) Elders and 20 youth per session.

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