Starting the conversation on mental health
Starting the conversation on mental health, bullying and LGBTQI+ inclusion
We know that lots of our young people are struggling with their wellbeing and mental health right now. We heard from Eoin Smith an Assistant Explorer Leader with Mannofield ESU about a recent night that they held to talk about mental health and wellbeing.
Mental health can sometimes feel like a taboo subject; something that is difficult to talk about, even for adults. But, according to the NHS, one in six school-aged young people has a mental health problem. And, alarmingly, the Centre for Mental Health reports that there is “an average 10-year delay between young people displaying first symptoms and getting help.”
So we need to normalise talking about mental health, to let young people know there is no shame in feeling how they feel.
During Mental Health Awareness Week, we ran a session which covered mental health, bullying and LGBTQI+ inclusion – three topics which are interlinked in so many ways. Our Explorers were split into groups and moved around ‘bases’ dedicated to each theme, where they completed activities and participated in open discussions that allowed them to explore the topics in some depth.
As leaders, we were incredibly impressed by the thoughtfulness and empathy on display by the Explorers as they tackled subjects which can be difficult for even many adults to address. As the night went on, we saw links being forged between the discussions in the different groups.
What our young people thought
“We covered a lot during the night, and it was good to have these kinds of discussions. People need to learn how their actions and the things they say can affect other people. When someone is homophobic or discriminates against someone in some way, they don’t grasp how it affects other people’s lives and their mental health. We need to make sure we are looking out for other people and allowing them to be happy in their lives.”
“In school we normally just get a brief overview of topics like this and we never really go in depth. Bullying has been covered a thousand times but discussing mental health and inclusiveness – and getting to ask questions – was really worthwhile. It’s important to see yourself as who you are; to think about how you are in your mind and not get caught up too much in what’s going on around you. It’s important to remember that it’s always good to talk to people, especially in Scouts.”
Top tips for running a session on mental health, bullying and inclusion:
Sessions like these shouldn’t be ‘one and done’ – they need to be a part of your regular programme. We run a specific night on these topics at least once a year, but we are constantly checking up on our Explorers’ welfare. This was especially important during the pandemic when we were meeting via Zoom, and our Explorers had less face-to-face contact with their friends and family.
Make sure you have a conversation and don’t give a lecture. Be open and honest – where appropriate, draw on your own experiences to help your Scouts understand these complex topics. This will let them know they can share their own thoughts, feelings and experiences if they feel comfortable doing so – but never force anyone to share anything they don’t want to.
Remember that there are lots of great resources available to help you deliver these sessions, like the Wellbeing Champion scheme and A Million Hands. We used the ‘True of False’ activity but modified the questions to suit our purposes. Don’t be afraid to tailor activities to suit your section.