Mental Health, Youth and Sexual Violence: An FAQ

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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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You Rock. It’s True.

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IMG_2213We were so excited to be invited to 5th Ancaster Girl Guides last fall to help them with their Say No To Violence Challenge.  We had amazing discussions and did activities to think about what they want in their relationships and how they can stand up for their friends.

They also came up with a very long list of what they look for in friends! The Guides then made beautiful art for survivors at SACHA, with their messages of support and love.

Thank you to these amazing young women for sharing to much compassion and creativity!

May is Sexual Violence Prevention Month.

Amelia’s Story

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Amelia is a Graduate of Small Business & Entrepreneurship with experience as a community advocate in both voluntary and professional settings; she is a survivor of sexual violence with roots in both Oxford County and Hamilton. Amelia has been a service-user at SACHA, as well as a volunteer since 2011.

You can watch a video of Ameila’s story here.

Amelia’s story was recently presented to the provincial government’s Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment.

May is Sexual Violence Prevention Month.

I would like to first thank members of the Committee and all others in attendance today for your interest and participation, as well as your devotion to ending sexual violence and harassment, and gender-based violence in general.

Please know that I understand my experiences to be my own, and though these experiences are certainly reflective of the sexual violence and harassment that others have faced, my perspective is that of a person with certain “unearned privileges”: My light-coloured skin tone, the fact that I do not identify as transgender, and that I am currently physically able-bodied has certainly had defining and lasting positive impacts throughout my journey as a survivor within a society that demonstrates strong preferences for individuals who exhibit these characteristics.

I encourage the Committee, and attendees and listeners, to consider in their approaches the needs of survivors from all demographics.

During my second year of high-school, I was sexually assaulted by another student within school walls. After a couple weeks’ hesitation, and with the encouragement of a friend, I made a choice to disclose my experience to a trusted teacher. It was unclear to me at the time that from the exact moment I made my disclosure, the power to choose what I would go through would not be my own. Instead, the power of choice in the matter would reside in protocol beyond what was accessible to me. Continue reading

Girls and Young Women Making Change

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by Lisa B

Good Grief What's Happening to Our Girls

May is Sexual Violence Prevention Month

Girls and young women have so much to contribute. They are capable of making change and developing into strong leaders.

Girls face an onslaught of challenges, however, which can hinder this potential. For instance, between the ages of 9-13, many girls’ confidence plummets. Girls are more likely to experience depression than boys. Although girls and boys report similar levels of depression in grade six, by grade 10 girls’ rates of depression are three times higher than those of boys’.

Given that girls and young women face higher rates of violence (in particular, sexual violence) and constantly receive societal messages that their primary value is how attractive and pleasing they are to others, it isn’t surprising that girls tend to struggle as they hit adolescence. Continue reading