We're helping young people develop strong mental wellbeing. How can you get involved?
In a society so riddled with stigma surrounding mental health, it feels only right that as Scouts, we do our best to help tackle this for our young members.
It is estimated that one in ten young people will be affected by mental health issues, with around half of mental ill health starting by 15 years of age.
What support do they have easy access to though? There is a current lack of professional help readily available to those who need it, with only 25% of those who need it receiving treatment.
Through increasing community awareness, we may increase the recognition of issues and then seek help, leading to a wider acceptance within society. Whilst there is apparent stigma attached for those who are suffering with their mental health, there is also a fear by others about helping in case they do or say the wrong thing. However, when someone is struggling, simply being there can be enough. How many times a day do we say 'How are you?', but how many times do we actually sit and listen to each other? In a world where life is so hectic, we don't often find time to stop and talk about how we really feel.
As Scouts, we can definitely do our part to help stamp out the stigma for our young people. As we recently launched, a team of Mental Health Awareness Coordinators have come together to help provide support that helps promote openness and knowledge.
Mental Health Awareness Week, is the 13th-19th May, and the team is currently working on resources to support you and your teams. But what can you do during Mental Health Awareness week?
You could go for a walk with a friend, grab a brew, or just simply make some time for you. Reconnect with yourself and take the time to unwind. Also, visit mentalhealth.org for information and events happening near you, or to download useful resources to share with your young people. The focus this year is on body image, and in a day and age where there is so much pressure on people to look a certain way and conform, this is definitely a topic of hot discussion!
I am definitely excited to help make this team a success, and will be working closely together for the support of our members.
It can be tricky to spot the signs of mental ill health in young people. It can be difficult to distinguish symptoms as many are similar to that of normal development, such as not wanting to spend as much time with family and wanting independence. Whilst this could be seen as withdrawal, this is also just a normal part of growing up. So here, it's largely down to context and judging what might be normal for the young person in question. If there are several distinctive changes occurring at once, such as a lack of social interaction, a lack of enjoyment in doing things they normally enjoy and being withdrawn from themselves and others, then it may be that there is a mental health issues underpinning their behaviour. If in doubt, ask them how they're feeling. Find out about their environment, but be mindful. I know that as leaders, we make a point of getting to know our young people and take the time when they need us. I operate an open door policy at meetings, where our young people know they can talk to me about absolutely anything and feel comfortable in doing so. It may often seem like a maze trying to decipher what's going on for a young person, but given the right environment and support, they'll more than likely start to open up.
For me, Scouts provides this environment. It gives our young people the chance to set their own parameters and push themselves in ways they may not normally have the chance to. Scouting also provides our young people with the opportunity to extend their friendship circle with people from all walks of life, with the shared passion of Scouting bringing them together. This gives our young people a sense of belonging, giving them something to strive for away from academia, and who knows, a session in Scouting might just be what sparks a passion and leads to a fulfilling career! For me, the main thing Scouting gives our young people is the chance to build their resilience, something even as a leader I have found Scouting has done for me. It's made me stronger and given me a support network I never would have experienced in normal social circles. It challenges me daily and I feel supported in learning and growing not only as a leader, but as a person, thanks to the non-judgemental and supportive environment it provides. Scouting can act as that safe haven, as an escape from the daily grind and be something to look forward to.
In my opinion, Scouting can have such a positive impact on a young person's mental health, and with our team of mental health awareness co-ordinators, support is about to get a whole lot better!
County Mental Health Awareness Co-Ordinator