THE BLOG

We Need to Speak More Openly About Mental Wellbeing and Resilience

24/08/2015 19:41 BST | Updated 24/08/2016 10:59 BST

Girlguiding's annual report, the Girls' Attitude Survey 2015, has found that the mental wellbeing and resilience of girls in the UK is under threat, and sadly I'm not surprised.

This year's survey - the largest piece of research into the lives of girls and young women in the UK - shows that two thirds of girls aged 17 to 21 say mental health is awkward to talk about, despite 62% of girls aged 11 to 21 knowing a girl or young woman who has experienced a mental health issue.

Mental wellbeing is rarely discussed in the classroom, which I think is partly due to the fact that the issue is still seen as a taboo topic by many. However, in my opinion avoiding the topic is only increasing the lack of understanding surrounding mental wellbeing and resilience, especially between adults and young people.

This year's survey found that 82% of girls aged 11 to 21 feel that adults do not recognise the pressure they are under, and while mental health issues, cyber-bullying and getting a job are named as the top overall concerns for girls aged 13 to 21, they believe their parents' biggest fears remain drug use, alcohol and smoking.

I think it can be difficult for adults to understand the enormous influence of social media on the lives of girls and young women today. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Tumblr create an online culture which is near-impossible to switch off from.

Though social media can be used as a positive means to encourage resilience, through body positive blogs, mental health awareness pages and online support groups, it can also be used to intimidate and bully others. This poses a threat to maintaining mental wellbeing.

We need to break down this generation barrier and encourage frank and open conversations. Fewer than half of girls aged 11 to 16 say that mental health has been discussed during lessons at school, with 53% feeling that they don't know enough about mental health problems among young people.

Improving PSHE lessons to cover topics such as mental wellbeing could help to break down this barrier. With the Girls' Attitudes Survey finding girls' mental health worries start from as young as seven, I think encouraging young people to express their thoughts, feelings and concerns in a safe and comfortable environment such as school is becoming increasingly important to achieving mental wellbeing.

Providing a safe space for all members is a core value in Girlguiding. At the Brownie group I volunteer with, we encourage the girls to be open and honest about their thoughts and feelings, offering a secure and comfortable environment where we listen and help our girls through any worries they may have, to maintain their mental wellbeing.

On a wider scale, we have our peer education scheme in which trained members of the Senior Section (ages 14 to 26) go to other groups to deliver sessions on a range of topics including self-esteem and body confidence, leadership skills, healthy relationships and risky behaviours such as smoking, drinking, sexual health and drugs.

These sessions have been created alongside professional bodies and experts, and focus on uncovering the 'myths' of the topic, revealing the truth and encouraging the girls to take what they have learnt back to their own communities.

This year's Girls' Attitudes Survey demonstrates that the mental wellbeing and resilience of girls and young women is under threat. It's time we all started speaking more openly on these issues, to ensure that all girls and young women can fulfil their potential and thrive in the wider world.

The full Girls' Attitudes Survey 2015 will be published next month.