Guiding the way…

This week I want to share extracts from “Teenage Mental health: girls shout out!”, the third research report recently released by GirlGuiding UK:

Teenage mental health: Girls shout out! is an investigation into girls’ experiences of both hard-to manage and challenging feelings and recognised mental health problems. The report considers a new generation of potential triggers for mental health problems in girls – premature sexualisation, commercialisation and alcohol misuse – and also some of the more longstanding issues like bullying and family breakdown. It examines the impact of such factors on girls’ feelings and behaviour at home and in their communities, and asks young women themselves what might be done to help.”

Some of the statistics are frightening and yet they are consistent with the many other studies that have also examined the impact our toxic culture is having on young women:

• Half the girls questioned know someone who has suffered from depression (51 per cent).
• Two-fifths know someone who has self-harmed (42 per cent).
• A third have a friend who has suffered from an eating disorder (32 per cent).
• Almost two in five have a friend who has experienced panic attacks (38 per cent).
• A quarter know someone who has taken illegal drugs (27 per cent).
• Two-fifths have experience of someone drinking too much alcohol (40 per cent).

It would be easy to feel overwhelmed wouldn’t it? But girls don’t need our dismay – they need us to get active.    

What types of things can be done to support girls’ emotional well being? The report also offers some practical suggestions:

1. Give girls things to do: from adventure playgrounds to kung fu or street dancing.
2. Create safe places where girls can have freedom without parents worrying.
3. Boost confidence by giving girls opportunities to succeed outside school.
4. Encourage girls to try something new.
5. Make girls feel normal and accepted – whatever problems they might have.
6. Don’t overwhelm them with advice – give them space.
7. Help them understand that they can’t always help the way they feel.
8. Initiate a young mayor scheme – giving girls a say in important decisions.
9. Make information about where to turn for help easily available.
10. Use the Girlguiding UK website to offer advice and support.

I would add to this the following ideas:

1. Empathise – don’t dismiss her fears and anxities, nor think of her as a mere “drama queen.” Being a teen girl is challenging at times, and I believe this generation of girls have it even harder than we did. A great exercise that may help you reconnect with what it feels like to be a teenager was offered in one of my previous posts: Letter To My Teen Self. Do take the time to read the letters other Butterfly Effect readers contributed – they are so insightful. Add a letter of your own!
2. Help girls develop a language to describe how they are feeling; develop their emotional literacy.
3. Encourage girls to seek out a “Fairy Godmother” – a mentor who can help her navigate these tumultueous years. Enlighten’s Program Director for Victoria, Sonia Lyne, discussed this with great honesty and warmth in her previous guest post True Colours.
4. Get informed. Read books from
My Library, read some of the articles on my Article of Interest page, watch some of the films in my Video Pod, visit some of the other web sites I recommend.
5. Encourage girls to critique the media messages that surround them. This blog has offered a variety of great practical activities that get girls active eg: my post on Talking Back to the Media. 

The entire GirlGuiding report is so well worth reading that I am providing the PDF here for you and a “virtual treat” for you to have whilst taking 5 minutes to really think about how you can respond intelligently and compassionately to the pressing needs of the girls you care for…

Guiding UK Report on Teenage Mental Health


3 thoughts on “Guiding the way…

  1. Sonia Lyne says:

    Danni when I read the report I was upset but definitely not shocked. In the work we do we know that these statistics are a true reflection of what girls are experiencing here in Australia too.

    The report states it targeted girls between the ages of 10-14. This is a frightening reflection on the messages being received through irresponsible and toxic advertising/marketing to younger audiences.

    I truly believe parents and educators are feeling helpless at times combating the never ending powerless messages.

    You have listed an exhaustive list of things we can all do to start igniting some fires; empowering our girls!!!

  2. Jane Higgins says:

    Brownie here. I love being called a brownie and having a laugh at my over preparedness for anything! I often share this with my girls in Enlighten workshops and show them that this behaviour is one way I eliminate stress – be prepared!!
    It saddens me no end that our girls are bombarded with such toxic messages – that they are “not enough” just as they are. But we can teach them how to fight back, educate them, empower them and love them for being the beautiful girls they are naturally on the inside.
    I loooove what I do and being part of such an amazing team!! Our girls are too precious to leave them to the media giants to tear apart. This queen has had enough and I am more than prepared to fight for them. You?

  3. Jane Higgins says:

    I just watched your suggested video (see below) titled the Girl Effect. I love this quote as it encapulates our work so beautifully…
    “Invest in a girl and she will do the rest”

    You bet! xx
    Great video Danni!!

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