Social impact grantee to use film to engage with therapists on LGBTQ mental health


Covid-19 has put extraordinary stress on the mental health of marginalised groups such as the LGBTQ community as they often face difficulty getting help in Malaysia’s conservative society. 

Freedom Film Network is helping to change this through our first social impact grant to PLUHO, or People Like Us Hang Out, a Malaysian organisation that supports LGBTQ individuals through community-building, empowerment and services. PLUHO plans to use the grant to organise talks and engage with mental health service providers on the unique challenges faced by the community.

One of its most powerful tools for this purpose is the film “Lonesome“ which spotlights the experiences of LGBTQ individuals during the long lockdowns Malaysia experienced. It is hoped that its initiative will lead to the development of programmes that are attuned to the specific challenges and needs of the LGBTQ community.

Social Impact Grant
This inaugural grant is to support civil society organisations (CSOs) in using social films as a key element in their social impact strategies.

This grant was awarded to 3 CSOs that are working on education, customary land rights and mental health respectively.

Applications for the next grant is now open.
Deadline: 31 October 2022

Read our interview to discover how PLUHO is achieving these aims with help from the RM30,000 social impact grant

Congratulations on the win! What can you share with our friends about PLUHO?

PLUHO is short for People Like Us Hang Out!, an LGBTQ-inclusive organisation focused on community building, service delivery and empowerment in Malaysia. 

We began in 2016 as a loose social collective of queer activists and registered officially as an organisation to run community engagement projects. Among them are projects on HIV & sexual health, LGBTQ mental health (the BlueBird project) and a community-run shelter (Rumah Angkat).

Why is this social impact grant important to your organisation and your community? 

The Malaysian LGBTQ community experiences systemic oppression and discrimination across multiple levels in society. We face homophobia and transphobia from our families, schools and workplaces. Both federal criminal and state religious laws are frequently used against us. 

Due to this, LGBTQ individuals struggle with a variety of mental health issues such as anxiety, trauma, depression and thoughts of suicide. Even as our mental health conditions are deteriorating, it is another challenge to find and gain access to LGBTQ-affirming therapy in Malaysia.

How will you use film for your project and how will it amplify your cause?

We are using a film called ‘Lonesome’ by Justice Khor, to reach mental health professionals. The aim is to raise awareness on LGBTQ mental health through film screenings, as we need more therapists to be queer-affirming or LGBTQ-affirming. The films will act as a catalyst of change in this project, as it provides a window to another person’s life. 

Since the inception of this project, PLUHO has gotten great support to dive deeper into curating resources for psychologists on LGBTQ-affirming therapy and this information will be included in our screening booklet.

We have also consulted four mental health therapists, most of whom are educators and teachers. They have given us valuable insights on how to use the film to meaningfully engage with those in the mental health services community, including students.

Lonesome by Justice Khor will be used to reach mental health professionals in the Unread Messages project by PLUHO using the Social Impact Grant

We are discussing with our film curating team on the structure of the post-screening discussion and the appropriate call-to-action. The next step would be to reach out to our potential collaborator in local private universities. 

We are currently finalising the content and structure of our workshop and aim to hold a separate event in collaboration with the Malaysian Deaf LGBTIQ community for their film – Deaf LGBTIQ.

These programmes will help spark important discussions and lead to LGBTQ-sensitisation workshops that highlight the importance of running an LGBTQ-affirming mental health practice.

What do you want to achieve with this project?

We hope more mental health practitioners can learn about our issues, be empathetic towards the LGBTQ community and eventually become our allies. Queer-affirming therapists are a critical support system to us, as they build our resilience in the face of the many challenges we face. We hope to inspire more mental health practitioners to be queer-affirming.

Why should other people care about your project and cause? 

Unfortunately, in Malaysia, conversion therapy is practised under the guise of religious counselling or spiritual corrective treatments. 

By making queer-affirming therapy more accessible to the LGBTQ community, more queer people in Malaysia can get the help they truly deserve.

The LGBTQ community are members of our society. We too – are citizens of Malaysia. We pay taxes and contribute to the nation’s growth. We are friends and family. 

Yet, we were not given equal rights, or equal access to justice, employment, health services. 

We need more support from allies, we need more people to hear about our stories. Together, we can create a more inclusive and diverse Malaysia, where marginalised communities feel supported.

How can people support your project?

We run a fund to subsidise therapy costs for LGBTQ clients and are happy to receive donations. Kindly transfer to CIMB account: 8010726294 (PLUHO PLT), with reference “BlueBird subsidy” and send the receipt to [email protected].

Follow us at: 
Twitter: @pluho_org
Instagram: @pluho_org

For any enquiries, please feel free to send us a DM, or email: [email protected], or [email protected] (for BlueBird)

Read about our other Social Impact Grant winner, SCRIPS where they uses films to strengthen their claims to their ancestral land.

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