ScoutsCymru is urging a growing number of young people suffering with mental health issues to “embrace the outdoors and the positive effects of exercise”.
The organisation, which encourages thousands of children and teenagers to get outdoors and gain skills for life, has said that physical activity and socialising can assist in tackling issues surrounding anxiety, loneliness, and stress in young people.
The volunteer-led group made the call to mark Children’s Mental Health Week from February 3rd to the 9th, which aims to shine a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health.
ScoutsCymru chose to support the initiative after a recent study by charity Barnardo’s Cymru revealed that the number of children it supported in schools increased from 645 between 2017 and 2018, to 1,000 from 2018 to 2019.
While the Welsh Assembly’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee’s inquiry also warned that Wales has the lowest levels of physical activity among children.
Rhian Moore, Chief Commissioner from ScoutsCymru, said that physical activity and socialising could have “endless” positive effects for young people who may be struggling with mental health issues, and urged them to try something new this month.
She said: “It’s heartbreaking to think that so many young people are struggling with issues around stress, loneliness, and anxiety in Wales.
“While we would always encourage them to reach out and seek professional support if they feel overwhelmed by mental health issues, we also believe that regular physical exercise and embracing the outdoors can also have endless positive effects on mental wellbeing.
“Our mission at ScoutsCymru is to provide over 14,000 young people the opportunity to enjoy fun and adventure, while developing the skills they need to succeed, so we believe that physical exercise could be the key to tackling both mental health and inactivity issues in Wales.
“Our members enjoy canoeing, climbing, running, cycling, and many other outdoor activities so we see first hand the benefits that exercise can have for them, not just in enhancing their physical health, but also supporting their mental wellbeing.
“So, to highlight Children’s Mental Health Week we could encourage everyone to try something new, explore Wales, and socialise with friends this month – it might just make the world of difference.”
According to previous research from the National Child Development Study, ex-Scouts or Guides were 15% less likely than other adults to suffer anxiety or mood disorders at the age of 50.
The findings showed that this may be linked to the resilience and resolve taught through the organisation, which could have beneficial effects into later life.
ScoutsCymru also actively promotes better mental wellbeing both through its A Million Hands initiative, which focuses on six programme themes including Better Mental Health for All. This sees young members working alongside charities including Mind, the Scottish Association for Mental Health, and Inspire to empower Scouts to support their mental health now and in the future.