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New Research Shows Guides Have Better Mental Health In Later Life - As A Girlguiding Member, I'm Not Surprised!

15/11/2016 12:09

I have been a member of Girlguiding my whole life and was going to weekly Rainbow meetings before I was even born (my Mum was a leader). Twenty years later it's still something I spend a lot of my time doing - I absolutely love it!

Therefore, I wasn't surprised at all by new research out this week showing that being a member of Girlguiding or the Scouts lowers the risk of mental illness later in life.

The research by the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow revealed that taking part in activities designed to develop self-reliance, teamwork and self-learning - all of which I have experienced through Girlguiding - are likely to impact on mental health.

After going to Rainbows, Brownies and Guides when I was younger, I'm now a Rainbow leader and spend an hour a week with a bunch of truly inspiring five to seven year olds. I never leave a meeting feeling down and can always rely on the girls to put a smile on my face.

This isn't all I do though. Throughout my time in Girlguiding, I have done everything from stargazing and climbing mountains to volunteering abroad and travelling to Dubai.

I remember having the chance to plan the theme for an evening meeting as a seven year old Brownie. It made me feel so important and realise that I can have a say and make a difference.

Later on, as a Guide, I sang in a talent show. I was terrified. I now sing every week, and was even in the BBC Proms this summer. It can still be scary but I have learnt to put those nerves aside and have confidence in myself.

I think one of the best opportunities I've had through guiding is training to become a Peer Educator. Girlguiding Peer Educators are young women who help Brownies, Guides and Senior Section members explore important topics such as body confidence and healthy relationships.

We recently launched a new Peer Education programme on mental health called Think Resilient. The new resource helps girls understand what resilience means and encourages them to celebrate their strengths and achievements.

The safe, girl only space provided by Girlguiding really helps girls find their thoughts and feelings and running these sessions has been really beneficial for me too.

As a Peer Educator, I have gained so much knowledge and confidence to the point I can now walk into a room full of girls, whether they're Brownies or Guides, and help them realise their potential.

Sadly, this is still very much needed as Girlguiding's Girls' Attitudes Survey 2016 revealed 69% of girls aged seven to 21 feel they're not good enough.

I don't want to live in a world where this is how girls feel. We need to recognise that the point when girls don't feel good enough is the point we need to do something.

I'm proud that I'm contributing to this through my role as a Rainbow Leader and Peer Educator. Each week, I'm helping to provide a space for girls to feel important and valued which, according to this new research, can help reduce their chances of developing anxiety and mood disorders later in life.

I've spent a lot of time talking about what I've done in Girlguiding, but when I think about it, it's these things which have made me who I am today. It's these things which have made me more resilient, more empowered to speak out and most importantly, happy.

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