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Hear me, Understand me, Support me: What young women want you to know about depression 

Hear Me, Understand Me, Support Me explores the diverse challenges that young women experience in relation to depression; prevention strategies; healthy helping relationships; the dos and don’ts of working with young women; and referrals and resources that can provide more information. Each section has three key features: “Hear Me,” “Understand Me” and “Support Me.”

The “Hear Me” section provides quotes from young women describing their feelings and perspectives. We invite you to read their full stories in the section In Their Words: Young Women’s Stories, Advice and Wisdom.

The “Understand Me” section offers insight and information - gathered from CAMH members of the VALIDITY team, clinicians and researchers - related to the respective topics.

The “Support Me” section gives tips, strategies and resources to help young women.

For example:

It also provides examples of successful initiatives that young women and service providers recommend (e.g. Girls Talk, Girls’ Nite, in Girl-Centred Health ).

Please note: In the process of posting this CAMH publication online, links to external sites were reviewed. In those cases where links have changed or are no longer in use, they have been deleted from the HTML (web page) version, but remain in the PDF versions. As a result, not all web pages will exactly match their PDF and print counterparts. The PDF versions will be updated if and when the print version is updated. We apologize for any inconvenience.

This online version of Hear me, Understand me, Support me has been modified from the print version.

Table of Contents


Letter to Service Providers

About the Guide

Listen to the Voices


"I don't want to be treated. I want to be heard."

-VALIDITY participant

This phrase captures succinctly the overriding theme of the young women's voices heard throughout the VALIDITY project and certainly in this guide.

When asked for their ideas about depression, young women don't, for the most part, identify physical "symptoms" that can be treated with a prescription. They call attention instead to factors outside of themselves, factors that may be influenced in a number of ways and that focus on preventing young women from slipping into clinical depression. Throughout this guide, young women's words clearly and consistently reflect what they think about when it comes to depression - including how society responds to depression, how to identify depression and the social factors contributing to depression. These issues have been documented and validated in numerous research studies:

In this section, we hear about each of these issues from diverse young women. As a whole, they represent the significant challenges that many young women face, often daily, from early adolescence to young adulthood as they strive to understand themselves, their bodies, their minds and their fit in a variety of societal settings. The complex layering of identities and roles often prescribed by society is referred to as intersectionality, and it poses specific and unique challenges for each young woman.

As you read through the stories and quotes from young women, consider that although they may be speaking about one issue, they are often trying to sort out challenges that result from multiple identities and pressures. One young woman, for example, writes of her experience as a young lesbian with a disability seeking help from the mental health services system. Others talk about the intersection of class and race, peer pressure and ethnicity, religion and culture. As service providers - physicians, therapists, teachers, etc. - we need to keep in mind that young women come to us with this complex diversity of identities and resulting needs.

Unspoken Challenges

At times, what young women don't say is very instructive. For example, we know that the troubling presence of sexual abuse in the lives of girls is a profound problem, yet the girls who spoke at various VALIDITY gatherings mentioned it only cursorily. Also, emerging research links anger to depression in young women; although anger was not mentioned by the young women overtly, they expressed frustration with the way young women are portrayed, the limitations that are placed upon them and the expectations of how they should act. We also know that socioeconomic status has an impact on health as well as on access to supportive services and healthy food, though again the young women did not mention this issue in relation to depression.

As you engage with young women in discussions related to depression, it is important to keep these realities in mind. Be sensitive to the fact that young women may not feel comfortable exploring deeper issues or may not be aware that certain factors play a role in depression. Developing a relationship built on trust will lay the foundation for you to be able to explore issues that may be at work beneath the surface.

Girl-Centred Health

A Healthy Helping Relationship

This section brings together both the young women and the CAMH members of the VALIDITY team to provide insight into how to engage and talk to young women about depression. The VALIDITY team also identified areas where professionals could provide information, understanding and support through the therapeutic relationship. The voices of VALIDITY also include clinicians who helped answer questions that the young women raised.

The Last Word

A Critical Link - Referrals and Additional Resources

This section offers resources and information in addition to those listed in the “Support Me” sections in this guide. We encourage you to complement these with your own personal list, which would include both prevention and therapeutic resources in your community. Developing relationships with other services will ease the referral process for young women.

In Their Words: Young Women's Stories, Advice and Wisdom

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