Ally-ship and Mental Health:

Strengthening Bonds in June, a Month of Celebration and Reflection

Image From the Independent (2023):

Judy Jaunzems-Fernuk, June 2023

Pride Mom, Advocate, Educator, Mental Health Practitioner

In the spirit of June, a month dedicated to recognizing both Indigenous Peoples History and Pride, it is crucial to highlight the essential role ally-ship plays in fostering mental health and well-being in our homes, classrooms, and community, and conversely, how racism and discrimination are bad for our overall health. The lasting impact of both love and hate must be recognized in the conversation on mental health and human well-being as love (or care through allyship) can be taught, and it benefits us all!

Listening & Learning is the Place to Start, AND it Happens to be Good for Our Mental Health!

We cannot know the lived experience of anyone else. Therefore, it’s on all of us to openly listen to, respect, and support anyone in a community who may be compromised due to inequalities that exist in structures and systems. The month of June recognizes we have a lot to learn when it comes to ally-ship and so this month calls on all of us, but most importantly those who have privilege, to use their voices to uplift and empower those who may be less likely to be heard: “By thinking about our privileges and how those intersect with others, we can overcome some of the barriers to building community and prepare ourselves for living and working successfully in an increasingly diverse world.”[1]

Ally-ship goes beyond mere support; it is a commitment to understanding, advocating, and challenging systemic biases to create a more inclusive and accepting society. By engaging in allyship, individuals can contribute to bridging community relationships, thereby promoting mental well-being for all. I know from experience that “taking responsibility for our part in the experience of others can be uncomfortable, but it is also enlightening” (2021). A great place to start is by watching, participating in, or listening to happenings in our community and challenging our inherent assumptions, biases, and misunderstandings wherever we can. Regarding mental health and collective well-being, everything starts with us and our awareness.

Strengthening Bonds as a Protective Factor: How Awareness Breeds Care and Connection

June, designated as Indigenous Peoples History Month, invites us to reflect on the past, honour Indigenous cultures, and acknowledge the need for reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) Calls to Action[2], issued by the TRC of Canada, provide a roadmap for healing and building relationships with Indigenous communities. By familiarizing ourselves with these Calls to Action, we can gain insights into how to be better allies and, in doing so, foster mental well-being for both Indigenous peoples and the broader community.

Similarly, June is recognized globally as Pride Month, commemorating the LGBTQ+ community’s resilience and contributions to society. Ally-ship, in this context, involves actively supporting and advocating for the rights and well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals. It requires challenging heteronormative and cisgender biases while promoting inclusivity and understanding.

What’s Good for You is Good for Me

Engaging in acts of allyship can have profound positive effects on mental health and overall well-being[3]. Connection and care are key principles of ally-ship, not only contributing to the well-being of diverse groups but also benefiting allies themselves. A growing body of research suggests that acts of kindness, compassion, and anti-racism have a reciprocal relationship with mental health[4]. A study conducted at Stanford University found that engaging in acts of kindness activates the reward centers in the brain, leading to increased feelings of happiness and life satisfaction. Additionally, challenging biases and prejudices can lead to personal growth and a sense of purpose, which are essential for maintaining positive mental health.

Individuals who actively support stigmatized groups report higher levels of psychological well-being, increased life satisfaction, and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety: being an ally offers a sense of purpose, connectedness, and personal growth, vital components of mental health[5]. Conversely, discrimination is bad for our health, and real or perceived, much harm is done when, mentally, physically, socially, or emotionally, we feel othered or like we do not belong[6].

Ally-ship presents a unique opportunity to bridge communities, challenge biases, and create a more inclusive society. By embracing ally-ship principles during Indigenous Peoples History Month and Pride Month, individuals can contribute to the collective mental well-being of themselves and others. As you celebrate and reflect this month, embrace ally-ship, challenge biases, and work towards a society where kindness, listening, understanding, and acceptance are the cornerstones of our interactions.

[1] Intersectionality and Privilege. (Feb. 2021). University of Edinburgh. Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion. Accessed June 1st, 2023.


[3] CHANGING DIRECTIONS CHANGING LIVES The Mental Health Strategy for Canada: Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2012). Changing directions, changing lives: The mental health strategy for Canada. Calgary, AB: Author.

[4] Rostosky, S. S., Black, W. W., Riggle, E. D., & Rosenkrantz, D. (2015). Positive aspects of being a heterosexual ally to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry85(4), 331.

[5] Ozbay, F., Johnson, D. C., Dimoulas, E., Morgan Iii, C. A., Charney, D., & Southwick, S. (2007). Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry (Edgmont)4(5), 35.

[6] Pascoe, E. A., & Smart Richman, L. (2009). Perceived discrimination and health: a meta-analytic review. Psychological bulletin135(4), 531.

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