As girls of all ages face increased mental wellness challenges and educators/mental health experts are stretched to their limits, parents can rely on local Girl Scout troops for crucial support.
This Mental Health Awareness Month, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) announces a new and upcoming slate of innovative mental wellness resources, programming, and training curated specifically to support girls and the adults who interact with them through Girl Scouts. Studies show that girls are disproportionally affected by the increasing mental health crisis in America and new National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) data shows nearly 90% of parents are now prioritizing their child’s mental health over academic achievement, yet teachers are tapped and therapists have patient waitlists up to a year long. GSUSA has strengthened its commitment to supplement traditional resources for girls and their caregivers by enhancing current programming, offering new adult training to identify potential issues, helping foster skills and behaviors that lead to a better well-being, and preparing older Girl Scouts with the tools to help friends and classmates in appropriate ways. With these new offerings, millions more girls could potentially receive much-needed support in an environment of inclusion and sisterhood, encouraging a healthier and happier existence for them moving forward.
Early Intervention: It has become clear that youths of all ages are experiencing an uptick in mental health needs—not just older kids. In 2020, mental health-related emergency department visits increased 24% among youths ages 5–11 compared to the same period in 2019. Early intervention that helps youths build social-emotional skills, healthy behaviors, and social support systems in a safe environment promotes resiliency and greater well-being. With this in mind, GSUSA is updating their Daisy petal badges, specifically made for Girl Scouts in kindergarten and first grade, for the first time in over a decade with a stronger focus on inclusion, sisterhood, and the development of age-appropriate social and emotional skills. The updated content—which was developed in partnership with Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility (DEIA) experts and mapped to education standards—elevates learnings centered around celebrating differences, standing up for what is right, making others feel included, equity versus equality, validating feelings, and more.
Prioritizing Inclusion: Young people who experience connectedness—or a sense of care, support, and belonging within their communities—may have a lower risk of mental health problems in adulthood. Identifying inclusion as an important component of mental wellness, Girl Scout troop leaders will receive new training on inclusion with intentional focus on best practices for creating inclusive environments. By practicing inclusive and equitable language to support all youths and foster a cohesive troop mindset, troop leaders will be better prepared to support a happy and healthy troop environment. The updated content—which was developed in partnership with DEIA experts—elevates learnings around topics like gender, race, disability inclusion, cultural appropriation, and more.
GSUSA’s new partnerships with expert organizations in the field of mental wellness will help youths and adults across the country better prepare for and deal with the mental health crisis personally, as mentors, and as peers.
- By working with the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, GSUSA, in partnership with The David and Lura Lovell Foundation, will provide Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training to adults across the Movement, including Girl Scout council staff and troop leaders. The first step will be training local Girl Scout staff to become YMHFA Instructors starting summer 2022, which will prepare them to train council staff and volunteers across the country moving forward, ensuring long-term sustainability of the program. This model will eventually arm thousands of adult volunteers and troop leaders with the tools to address common youth mental health and substance use challenges by learning about typical adolescent development alongside a five-step action plan that details how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations.
- A national partnership with NAMI will strengthen local relationships between Girl Scout councils and state and local NAMI affiliates to provide access to NAMI’s resources and expertise. This partnership will build capacity to support the mental well-being of young people, volunteers, and families, while providing more resources and experiences to Girl Scout troops.
- A series of workshops for Girl Scouts in grades 4–12, made possible by HCA Healthcare Foundation, will help girls better understand mental wellness and provide them with skills to strengthen their resilience. The high school workshop will also equip Girl Scouts with peer support techniques to help friends and classmates. Developed with the understanding that girls are especially impacted by societal pressures and the current youth mental health crisis, the workshops, which roll out summer 2023, are created with NAMI subject matter experts.
- Mental Wellness 101, made possible by The David and Lura Lovell Foundation, is a foundational training course to help Girl Scout volunteers and staff better understand mental health and the different stages of social-emotional development. This training course will equip adults with the tools needed to spot signs of mental health issues and support girls’ psychological well-being. It will be available summer 2022.
“Leisure activities, social support from peers and adults, social-emotional skill-building, and a physically and psychologically safe space are key to mental well-being,” says Kimberly Belmonte, vice president, Girl Scout Research Institute. “Our data shows that we meet these needs for girls, and now Girl Scouts is looking to expand our impact in even more ways in support of girls’ positive mental wellness. We are doing this through updating existing programming and providing new programs; focusing on diversity, inclusion; and making sure girls of all ages and the adults who support them receive relevant information and resources on mental wellness.”
“Helping to further Girl Scouts’ work in mental wellness has huge potential for the mental health of girls in America,” says Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We are keenly focused on early intervention for our nation’s youth, especially as we see the harmful impact the pandemic is having on them. We are excited to work with an organization as large as Girl Scouts to support girls and the adults who regularly interact with them. This work will introduce youth support training to prepare older girls with the tools they need to develop active listening skills and hold courageous conversations with their peers.”
Launched in November 2021 in response to the pandemic, Girl Scouts’ Resilient. Ready. Strong. patch program, which reaches girls from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade, quickly became the #1 downloaded patch program since its release, showing the need for and enthusiasm around activities tied to mental wellness. With 20 activities tied to social-emotional skills like sharing emotions, connecting with animals, finding meaning, and more, Girl Scouts ages five to 17 can choose what they want to do to help boost their resilience, lift their mood, and face challenges. They also earn a patch upon completion.
To access valuable resources to support girls’ mental well-being and join Girl Scouts, visit www.girlscouts.org/mentalwellness.
We Are Girl Scouts of the USA
Girl Scouts bring their dreams to life and work together to build a better world. Through programs from coast to coast, Girl Scouts of all backgrounds and abilities can be unapologetically themselves as they discover their strengths and rise to meet new challenges—whether they want to climb to the top of a tree or the top of their class, lace up their boots for a hike or advocate for climate justice, or make their first best friends. Backed by trusted adult volunteers, mentors, and millions of alums, Girl Scouts lead the way as they find their voices and make changes that affect the issues most important to them. To join us, volunteer, reconnect, or donate, visit girlscouts.org.
SOURCE Girl Scouts of the USA / PRNewswire
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