THE BLOG

Girls and Young Women Are Facing Unprecedented Pressures: It's Time to Talk Openly About Mental Wellbeing

09/02/2016 13:01 GMT | Updated 09/02/2017 10:12 GMT

Katherine Bradfield, 19, is a member of Advocate, Girlguiding's youth advocacy panel, a Leader with her local Brownies and a member of 56th Belfast Senior Section. She lives in Belfast.

Girls and young women face an unprecedented amount of pressure in today's society. Widespread body shaming, sexual harassment, worries about future careers and continual gender stereotyping takes its toll; the rise of social media means it's even more difficult to remove yourself from these pressures.

Girlguiding research shows that three in five girls aged 11 to 21 know a girl or young woman their age who has experienced a mental health problem, but over half of girls in this age group think that mental health is awkward to talk about.

For far too long the issue of mental health has been pushed aside and ignored, branded as something uncomfortable to talk about. This attitude only makes things worse for those who are experiencing problems.

Young people need to know that it's okay to talk to someone about how they feel, and more importantly, that it's okay not to feel 100% all the time. Starting the conversation is the first step to a more open-minded approach to mental health in our society.

Talking about mental health doesn't have to be a scary, serious topic. One of the biggest problems I see amongst my friends who have experienced mental health issues is a lack of understanding about what can be done to help them move forward.

Girlguiding's Girls' Attitudes Survey - the largest piece of research into the lives of girls and young women in the UK - shows that over 50% of girls aged 11 to 21 feel they don't know enough about youth mental health issues, or where they could turn if they needed help.

It's so important that young people know where they can get help and support - it's also vital that peers, parents and teachers know how they can be of help when it comes to mental health issues. Open conversation is the first step to ensuring that this can happen.

It's really important for girls to have a space where they can escape from the pressures they're under. Girlguiding gives them this space - often girls can build resilience without even realising. Both relaxing and being active can combat stress, and Girlguiding group meetings often have a good balance of both, incorporating everything from adventurous activities to peer mentoring.

Group meetings provide a flexible weekly routine - I always look forward to them! It can be really good if you've had a long day at school to get out of the house and join in with something completely different - and often a lot more fun! Girlguiding also provides space for girls to be creative and try new things.

As well as this, volunteering with an organisation such as Girlguiding can help give girls a sense of purpose which also helps to build resilience. It's a really fun way to escape from the pressures of everyday life.

We need to start talking about mental health, and end the stigma around mental health issues. By starting an open conversation, we can take the first step to ensuring that all young people know where they can turn for help - and know that asking for help is okay.

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