28.05.21 By Olivia Bird

Lessons we learnt from #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

Last week was Mental Health Awareness week and, in support of the Mental Health Foundation, DofE Scotland wanted to listen, share stories and learn from our network.

Mental health has been a big conversation topic over the past year, as we have all faced lockdown, health concerns, and interruption to our normal lives. It’s been a particularly uncertain year for young people, who have seen their education, employment and social life disrupted. For many, it has brought mental health and wellbeing to the forefront of their minds as they search for structure and focus. We’ve heard from many of our participants that being able to continue their DofE Award really helped give some form of normality during the past year. Our Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Report demonstrates how doing DofE can positively effect wellbeing.

The theme for 2021 was Nature, which is particularly fitting as a lot of people across the country found themselves connecting more with nature during lockdown. Being outside was one of the top coping strategies during such a stressful and uncertain year of COVID restrictions (Mental Health Foundation: 2021). This could be as simple as going for a walk in your local area or spending time gardening.

Here are a few things we learnt this week about how our network support their mental wellbeing:

In the words of Paralympian Karen Darke, let your light shine! Believing in yourself and supporting others can help us all be the best versions of ourselves and create positive self-talk, leading to improved wellbeing.

Jason Leitch encouraged us that these uncertain times won’t last forever. Even though it can feel like life has been on pause this past year the end of the pandemic is in sight!

It really is OK not to be OK. However you feel, your feelings are valid. Opening up about negative thoughts and feelings can be an important step in acceptance and recovery.

When life feels overwhelming, focus on the little things around you. Take in your surroundings whilst outside… you can even get creative and take photos that you can look back on.

Jayne said that persevering with her DofE believing in herself helped overcome her doubts she had about her abilities.

Edinburgh Academy spoke about the benefits of being outside in the fresh air to clear your mind. This is particularly important when a situation can feel overwhelming and stressful.

They also pointed out that experiencing nature with others is enjoyable too, not only for banter and exploring green spaces but to share experiences and feelings.

Young Scot, as part of #Ayefeel, shared Fergus Crawley’s story which highlighted the importance to talking and addressing how you are really feeling.

The Conservation Volunteers blog from Cumbernauld shared this great quote-
“Mental health awareness is the torch. The more we talk, the more we share, the more we shine a light into the dark places, the more we find that there is nothing there to be afraid of but shadows.”

What did you learn from Mental Health Awareness Week? Or is there something you’d like to share with youth organisations across Scotland? Let us know.