Knowing about sexual assault and mental health

Health Watch

What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault refers to sexual behaviour that occurs without the clear consent of the victim.
It includes:

  • ATTEMPTED rape;
  • FONDLING or unwanted sexual touching;
  • FORCING a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body; and,
  • PENETRATION of the victim’s body (rape).

It’s important to note that force does not just mean physical force, but includes manipulation, compulsion, threats and situations where a person is unable to give consent.
We should know that sexual violence is never the victim’s fault.

How does sexual assault impact mental health?
Sexual assault can have a variety of short- and long-term effects on a victim’s mental health.
Many survivors report flashbacks of their assault and feelings of shame, isolation, shock, confusion and guilt.
People who were victims of rape or sexual assault are at an increased risk for development.

Basic facts about depression
Major depression is one of the most common mental illnesses.
Depression causes people to lose pleasure from daily life, can complicate other medical conditions and can be serious enough to lead to suicide.
Depression can occur to anyone, at any age and to people of any race or ethnic group.
Depression is never a normal part of life, no matter what your age, gender or health situation.


Many things can contribute to clinical depression.
For some people, a number of factors seem to be involved, while for others, a single factor can cause the illness.
Oftentimes, people become depressed for no apparent reason.

People with depression may have too little or too much of certain brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters.
Changes in these brain chemicals may cause or contribute to depression.

People with negative thinking patterns and low self-esteem are more likely to develop clinical depression.


More women experience depression than men.
While the reasons for this are still unclear, they may include the hormonal changes women go through during menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and menopause.
Other reasons may include the stress caused by the multiple responsibilities that women have.

Depression is more likely to occur along with certain illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and hormonal disorders.

Side effects of some medications can bring about depression.

A family history of depression increases the risk for developing the illness.
Some studies show a combination of genes and environmental factors work together to increase risk for depression.

Difficult life events, including divorce, financial problems or the death of a loved one can contribute to depression.
Depressive disorders are a type of mood disorders that involve extended periods of feeling extremely low and disrupt a person’s ability to enjoy life.
Some of the most common depressive disorders include major depressive disorder (clinical depression) – a mental health condition characterised by an unavoidable and ongoing low mood often accompanied by low self-esteem and loss of interest or pleasure in activities that a person used to find enjoyable.
To meet the criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD), symptoms must be present nearly every day for two weeks.
MDD is also often referred to as a major depression.