Cover by: Laryssa Ipema


13 Sep 2019

Recent Publications, Quotes, and Cites from School of Nursing's SARAVYC Research

The Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre (SARAVYC) is a research centre through the UBC School of Nursing. Since 2006, SARAVYC has been conducting rigorous, cutting-edge, and award-winning research that studies how stigma, discrimination, violence, and trauma affect young people’s health. Several articles and studies have recently been published detailing SARAVYC research. Here’s a look at some of the discourse mentioning SARAVYC's work in the fall of 2019.

 Substance Use

"What’s making LGBTQ2 people smoke more?", an article from Xtra, discusses how the emotional response to a hostile environment can translate into physical effects. The article references SARAVYC's community report from the Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey. The survey data showed that rates of tobacco use were significantly higher among trans and non-binary young people. Unsurprisingly, the negative attitudes and stigma toward LGBTQ persons are tremendously harmful to their emotional and mental health. Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, Executive Director of SARAVYC and Director and Professor at the UBC School of Nursing, explains these statistics: 

“Experiences of violence and discrimination, from family rejection, negative comments about you and people like you, actual verbal abuse and harassment, all the way to physical assaults and threats —these are all things that LGBTQ2 young people experience more than their heterosexual, cisgender peers."

The article "Romantic attraction and substance use in 15 year-old adolescents from eight European countries”, published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, also explores the correlation between substance use and adolescents who identify as LGBTQ. A Maclean's news article examining the high rates of nicotine addiction in teenagers also quoted Dr. Saewyc. 

SARAVYC's research was used in another recent study that explored what factors might lower the concerning rates of substance use for LGBTQ youths. The research article “Supportive community resources are associated with lower risk of substance use among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning adolescents in Minnesota” reports that areas with a greater variety of school resources—such as Gay Straight Alliance student organizations or enforced anti-bullying policies—correlate with lower rates of substance use. Communities with even broader support systems including a “supportive religious climate, higher concentration of same-sex couples, supportive public opinion, and the presence of policies regarding hate crimes and employment discrimination" had lower rates of substance use. Such research is important for designing and implementing solutions to health disparities among youth:

"Bullying, peer harassment, and other experiences of stigma contribute to health disparities in LGBQ populations However, many LGBQ adolescents thrive in spite of this adversity. Research has turned to health-promoting protective factors that can support young people—even those in vulnerable, stigmatized groups—as they navigate their adolescence."

Ethical Dilemmas

SARAVYC has also conducted research in the area of health care. The following study tackles an issue that often arises in health care regarding the ethics surrounding treatment and consent to care. In "The edge of harm and help”: ethical considerations in the care of transgender youth with complex family situations”, SARAVYC post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Beth Clark, and Dr. Saewyc detail the ethical mindset that caregivers and health professionals engage to solve sensitive debates. They explore the "ethical and clinical decision-making processes of health care providers", and propose a solution to address the needs of transgender youth with delicate family situations:

“Health care providers who work with trans youth and their families may encounter ethical dilemmas […]. For example, a key ethical issue identified by youth gender health care providers in British Columbia, and largely overlooked in the literature, involves how to provide ethically appropriate care for trans youth whose parents do not support their decision to initiate hormone therapy […]. In these scenarios, health-care providers may be uncertain about how to balance the needs of youth and parents.

Sexual Abuse and Running Away

Dr. Saewyc led another recent paper on the topic of sexually abused adolescents and family relationships. The study used data from the Runaway Intervention Program evaluation with Minnesota Children's Hospitals. Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, "The Links Between Sexual Abuse Severity, Running Away, and Parental Connectedness Among Youth at a Hospital-Based Child Advocacy Center", states that: 

"Runaway adolescents often have strained relationships with their parents. Given parental support is an important protective resource for traumatized young people, understanding differences in support within parent–adolescent relationships could aid in designing more effective interventions."

Both runaway and homeless adolescents are at high risk of poor health outcomes, such as depression, suicide attempts, substance use, physical and sexual abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and unexpected pregnancies. The implication and contribution of this study is to expand upon the link between parent connectedness and running away. The study also looks at how the severity of sexual abuse experiences may influence parental connectedness, which has important implications for intervention and treatment.

This cluster of research shows the interconnectedness of emotional, mental, and physical health. Through extensive research and dedication, SARAVYC makes further progress toward realizing its mission to "develop interventions to improve health outcomes and equity for marginalized youth." 

Visit for more information about SARAVYC research.