Adolescence can be a hard time for young women. Health studies such as the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) show that young women’s mental health suffers during this life stage. The VALIDITY Project (Vibrant Action Looking Into Depression In Today’s Young Women) brings together young women with staff from CAMH, YouthNet, and other community-based agencies with the aim of helping young women to prevent and understand depression.
Girls Talk is one of many initiatives that have come out of VALIDITY. This eight-session, resiliency-based education and awareness program creates safe spaces where young women can come together, connect, talk, and just be themselves. They discuss their concerns, talk about mental health, learn about local resources, and get help if needed. Girls Talk uses youth-friendly approaches like journalling, arts, psycho-educational activities, and physical activities to encourage young women to explore and express their thoughts on the complex factors that affect their lives and mental health, such as family violence, sexual abuse, gender stereotypes, homophobia, able-ism, racism, mental health stigma, and the stresses of everyday life. The program empowers young women by helping them develop their sense of power and a language for their feelings. This allows them to express their voice so they feel they are being heard.
Young women developed the Girls Talk Program in collaboration with clinicians and other youth-serving agencies. They were involved in every development step, from helping to write and test the materials to providing feedback for change to and promoting the program. Over time, young women have also learned to facilitate the group sessions for other youth and have done so very successfully in many communities.