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Emotional Wellbeing

The Fundamentals of Scouting focus on creating a supportive and inclusive environment for young people, promoting their physical and emotional wellbeing and facilitating development. It is vital that all adults in Scouting provide young people with the space to develop positive self-esteem, values, resilience and feel comfortable to talk about their feelings.

What is emotional wellbeing?

Emotional wellbeing (sometimes called mental wellbeing) describes how you feel and how well you can cope with day-to-day life.

If a person has good emotional wellbeing they are able to:
Emotional wellbeing can change from day to day. If someone experiences low emotional wellbeing for a long period of time, they are more likely to develop a mental health problem (see below for more information).

What affects emotional wellbeing?

Everyone has times when they feel stressed, upset or find it difficult to cope. These feelings can make us act in ways that we wouldn’t usually.

A young person’s emotional wellbeing can be affected by common life events such as bullying, pressures of exams or losing a loved one. Building emotional resilience can improve wellbeing and make it easier to adapt to challenging circumstances.

Ways of building emotional resilience include:
These are all things that Scouting can bring to a young person, and that we can use to maximise the benefits of Scouting.

What can I do to promote emotional wellbeing in my Section?

Scouting has a positive impact on the emotional wellbeing of young people and can build their resilience. The very nature of Scouting provides consistency, positive relationships and physical activities, that can give young people a break from worries in other aspects of their lives and boost self-esteem.

Scouting also provides a supportive environment for young people to share their thoughts and feelings, and challenges them to try new things and build their confidence.

As volunteers you are in a great position to maximise the impact of small things that can improve a young person’s wellbeing.

Below we provide some practical examples of the things you can do (and may already be doing);

The Scout Association’s community impact project, A Million Hands, includes ready-made programme activities, tools and resources, to help young people and leaders explorer the language and issues related to mental health, develop a lifestyle that supports their own mental health and to share this information with others.  By taking practical actions, awareness of mental health is raised and stigma decreased. To find out more, visit www.amillionhands.org.uk.

Read more about the support Sophie received within Scouting, and how support from the Section helped her begin to address her mental health issues in Scouting magazine Spring 2017 (p.36+).

What is a mental health problem?

Just as we all have physical health, we have mental health too. An individual may have a mental health problem if the difficult feelings that they are experiencing are affecting their everyday life, and continue for a long period (a few weeks or more).

There are different types of mental health problems with a wide range of symptoms. These include depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, eating problems, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and personality disorders. For more information from the Mind website, click here.

Many people will suffer from mental health problems at some point in their life. Like physical illness, mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or any other characteristics. Young Minds estimate that 3 young people; boys and girls; in every classroom have a mental health problem. So it’s likely that at some stage, a young person in your section will be affected.

How will I recognise a young person is experiencing a mental health problem?

Your role in Scouting gives you a unique opportunity to see a young person over a longer period of time (for example, during a camp). But it’s not always easy to tell if a person is having a ‘bad’ day or if they’re experiencing a mental health problem.

Below we look at some of the signs that may indicate a young person is experiencing a mental health problem:

If you are unsure, you could talk it through with your line manager, or contact The Scout Association Safeguarding Team to discuss. A conversation with the young person’s parent or carer at this stage can be helpful in establishing an overall view of the young person’s emotional health and any existing support that the young person may be receiving.

The parent or carer may be able to give advice about how you can best support their child in Scouting.

How can I support a young person with a mental health problem?

You are not expected to be an expert. Remember, just being involved in a supportive environment within Scouting and the positive relationships made there, can make a big difference.

The major support for a young person with a mental health problem needs to be identified outside Scouting. The Safeguarding team can provide support with this if needed.

Remember, if you are worried about a young person’s safety or wellbeing, contact the Safeguarding team.

What can I do if I’m worried about a young person’s mental health?

If you are worried about a young person, you should contact The Scout Association Safeguarding Team for advice. If the Safeguarding team think it is appropriate, they will to seek advice from Children’s Services and may be asked by them to make a referral. (Volunteers are not expected to make a referral on behalf of a young person or their family).

Children’s Services may make a referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) if the young person isn’t currently receiving any support. The young person’s GP is also in a position to make a referral to CAMHS if required.

If a parent or carer is concerned about their child’s mental health, they should speak to their GP, or contact Young Minds or the NSPCC for advice.

Further information and support organisations

For further information and guidance, The Scout Association has developed an introductory e-learning pathway with MindEd. This provides simple, clear guidance on children and young peoples’ mental health, wellbeing and development. For more information, click here.

The Scout Association Safeguarding Team

020 8433 7164

Young Minds 
A charity committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people.

Information about wellbeing and mental health problems, including advice for carers, family and friends.

Rethink Mental Illness
Information about mental health problems, including advice for carers, family and friends.

Time to Change
A campaign to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination, led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

Meaningful Minds
A website designed by young people, which aims to give young people information, advice and guidance about mental health in an easily accessible way. This was part of a Young Devon project, funded by The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

0800 11 11
Telephone and online support for young people.

0808 800 5000
Information for people who are worried about a child, or who work with children and need information and advice.

Get Connected (for under 25s)
0808 808 4994
Telephone and online support for young people who need help but don’t know where to turn to.

For information about A Million Hands, our national community impact project that aims to improve the mental wellbeing and resilience of families, Scout Groups and broader society as a result of our young people’s actions,  visit www.amillionhands.org.uk

Guidance created in partnership with Mind.


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Charity Numbers 306101 (England and Wales) and SC038437 (Scotland).
Registered address: The Scout Association, Gilwell Park, Chingford, London, England E4 7QW