Mental Health, Youth and Sexual Violence: An FAQ


By Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, White Ribbon Campaign, and OPHEA

What is mental health, and why is it especially important to young people?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a “state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. Mental health problems can include panic and anxiety, depression and other mood problems, psychosis, eating problems and other emotional, coping or addiction problems.

It is estimated that around 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have mental health problems. About half of mental disorders begin before the age of 14. Without support, mental health problems can have a significant impact on a young person’s ability to engage with and succeed in their studies: “young people with mental health disorders are at great risk for dropping out of school”. As they grow older, additional challenges can accumulate, with “diminished career options arising from leaving school prematurely” and an overall “effect on productivity” and well-being.

Challenges also exist in providing helpful responses to young people dealing with mental health problems. Children’s Mental Health Ontario shares, for example, that:

  • 28% of students report not knowing where to turn when they wanted to talk to someone about mental health¹
  • Black youth are significantly under-represented in mental health and treatment-oriented services and over represented in containment-focused facilities²
  • First Nations youth die by suicide about 5 to 6 times more often than non-Aboriginal youth
  • LGBTQ youth face approximately 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse than their heterosexual peers.

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Draw the Line Workshops in HamOnt


As part of Hamilton Public Library‘s Hamilton Reads Series (#HPLreads), HPL and SACHA are hosting four Draw the Line workshops.

Tuesday, October 3rd – Safe Partying

  • 3pm at Central Library: 55 York Blvd
  • 7pm at Waterdown Branch: 163 Dundas Street East

    Half of sexual assaults in Canada involve alcohol. This interactive session will give participants harm-reducing tools for ending alcohol facilitated sexual assault and online sexual violence.

Wednesday, October 4th – How to be an Ally to Survivors

  • 2:30pm at Ancaster Branch: 30 Wilson Street East
  • 7pm at Barton Street Branch: 571 Bartons Street East

    If a coworker, family member or friend told you they had been assaulted, would you know how to respond? This interactive session will get participants thinking through the best ways of supporting people we love who have experienced sexual abuse.

    For the Ancaster workshop please register ahead of time by calling – 905-648-6911.

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Bystander Intervention Skills


You can interrupt sketchy behaviour at a bar, concert, or a party to prevent
sexual violence.

These skills are new for lots of folks! Just like first aid, these strategies require learning, relearning, and practice.

SACHA has got your back! If you see something sketchy and you unsure how to take action, you can call SACHA’s 24 Hour Support Line to chat about ideas and options – 905.525.4162.

The number one action you can take RIGHT NOW is:

Bystander Intervention Skills


Don’t go it alone. Gather your peeps. Who is near that can help?A friend? Security staff? Even if it’s just to validate that the behaviour is not OK.

  • “I think she needs our help, but I don’t know what to do. Have any ideas?”
  • “Will you watch while I go chat with them?”


Approach either the person being targeted or the person doing the harassing and be direct.

  • “Are you OK?”
  • “Can I help you?”
  • “That’s not OK.”
  • “You need to stop.”


Think of a way to distract the folks involved in the situation: either the person being targeted or the person doing the harassing.

  • “Can you take a pic of my friends and I?”
  • “What time is it?”
  • “Where’s the washrooms?”
  • “That’s a FAB outfit! Where did you get it?”
  • “My friend’s gone missing. Can you help me find them?”


Make a record or keep your eye on the situation in case it escalates.

Bystander Intervention by SACHA


More Great Conversations at Westdale Secondary School


I returned to Westdale today to facilitate workshops with two more classes of grade nine girls.  (Check out the links, videos and articles that came up in discussions with yesterday’s classes…)

Today students were asking great insightful questions and making comments about sexual assault law, rape prevention tips, victim blaming and consent.

Lots and lots and lots of awesome questions asked, here are the questions and discussions that I promised to follow up with links, articles and videos:

  • One student asked “Why are rape prevention tips just for young women?  Why aren’t we talking to guys to?”.  We talked about how a lot of rape prevention tips for women are victim blaming.
  • We talked about Robin Thicke’s song ‘Blurred Lines’ and about awesome parodies of the song.
  • A student brought up the open letter about how to talk to young men about Robin Thicke.
  • Another student asked for interesting creative ways to ask for consent.  There’s lots of information and examples of how to ask for consent on
  • The age of consent in Canadian Law was bought up.
  • A question was asked about the misconceptions of feminism (Aren’t feminist just power hungry?  Don’t all feminists hate men?).  Gender focus has an awesome video series that debunks a lot of the myths about feminism:

I also promised to create SACHA’s Test for consent in movies, which would be an awful lot like the Bechdel Test, but would help folks to determine if movie characters are getting  consent before they get it on.  Would anyone like to help me with that?

I am absolutely amazed at what great conversationalist and discussions we have every time I visit high schools.  If you would like to invite SACHA to come speak at your school, community group or workplace please contact me.

— erin –

Gender Studies in Hamilton High Schools


Yesterday, I had the super exciting opportunity to chat with students from Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School.

Gender studies was added to the Ontario curriculum after years of hard work from a dedicated group of feminist activists in the Miss G Project.

The Miss G project began in January 2005 as the somewhat naive dream of a few students at the University of Western Ontario. Kickin’ around a dorm room, listening to tunes, and talking about high school experiences, it occurred to them that they had never encountered an introduction to studies of gender, its intersections with class, race, ability and sexual identity, and its implications in their high school education. Nor did they see women’s perspectives and experiences represented or included in the curriculum as anything more substantial than a tokenistic sidebar in a textbook.

We had a great chat about feminism, sexual assault, rape myths, victim blaming and effective strategies to end violence.

I promised the students that I would share all of the links, videos and articles that I mentioned in class:

  • The amazing PSA created by Rape Crisis Scotland that confronts and busts the lie that women ask for rape by what they are wearing:
  • Project Unbreakable which has pictures of survivors holding signs of with quotes from their abusers:
    project unbreakable
  • Then the awesome bloggers at Sociological Images compared quotes of abusers from Project Unbreakable to the lyrics of Robin Thicke’s song ‘Blurred Lines’:
  • HollaBack! Ottawa’s open letter to the women of Ottawa after there were a series of stranger rapes that were covered by the media:
    “How do we, as advocates, tell young women to protect themselves from their lab partners, their boyfriends, their prom dates, their classmates and their friends? We don’t. We tell men that sexual assault is wrong. We educate young men about consent. We build a society and community that respects women and sees them as equals, not as objects.
    We are deeply concerned for the women who have been hurt. We are deeply concerned about the messages coming from media, safety services and city officials about how to address the problem of sexual violence. We are deeply concerned that we live in a culture that silences those who speak out about sexual assault, shames women who have been assaulted; blames a woman for her assault; a justice system that consistently fails women.”
  • Salon’s article on “How to prevent rape without blaming women”:
    “The notion that the way you dress influences your chance of being raped is just one of the ways that we delude ourselves into believing that rape happens to other women – women who aren’t as smart or cautious.”
  • Ten Rape Prevention Tips:
  • These awesome young truth-speaking poets on the sexification of halloween:
  • Awesome campaigns addressing sexual violence:
    It’s Time… To End Violence Against Women and Girls
    Draw The Line
    Don’t Be That Guy

It was awesome to get the chance to speak to a gender studies class in Hamilton, but I’m wondering if this class is being offered in any other high schools in Hamilton.  Does anyone else know of gender studies being offered in their school?

— erin,

Don’t Be That Guy Comes to Hamilton


Don’t be that guy — a campaign from Edmonton has come to Hamtilon!

Maybe you’ve seen these images widely posted online or visited the Edmonton campaign’s website –

This campaign encourages a couple of Extremely Important responses when it comes to partying it up and getting your bevvy on. First and foremost, it encourages male participants to Not Be That Guy — you know, the one who Only Talks to Drunk Women, the guy who Buys The Drinks For The Ladies all night; who Comes On Strong; and who is seen behaving coercively, pressuring or seem entitled (to certain women, for example).

In contrast, and by making a monstrously glaring example of That Guy, this campaign also encourages a different way for men to respond to women while drinking: with Respect for her needs; a Desire to Foster Safer Space for women; and An Ear for Consent — and the ability to honour the lackthereof.

Let’s encourage folks to Be That Guy.

Don’t Be That Guy is being brought to Hamilton by:

— amelia