It was the hottest weekend of the year but instead of setting up camp in the garden, complete with paddling pool, BBQ and cushioned lounger, Mummy was doing a different sort of camping altogether. Mummy was going on camp, Brownie camp.
Excited was not the word. Rather, a better description of how Mummy was feeling at the prospect of spending an entire weekend with a plethora of other people’s little terrors running feral through the fields, was PETRIFIED.A seasoned camper in her youth, Mummy was no stranger to sleeping au naturel, but the worries she had surrounding camp were entirely her own worries for her daughter. And despite them not being dissimilar to the worries of any other Mummy about to pack her precious one off to camp, she felt nonetheless TERRIFIED. Would her daughter integrate? Would she feel accepted? Would she cope? Would she be independent? Would she be responsible? Would she let go? And most importantly, would she have fun?
But after three nights under the stars, countless minor injuries, endless bags of filthy clothes and a myriad of meaningful memories, Mummy’s concerns over Brownie camp were completely unfounded. And here’s why: Mummy felt a spark of something significant ignite in every single child she met on that camp. It took her a while to fathom it out but then it became so incredibly clear.
The lives of children and young people are hugely influenced by the environments in which they grow up: their families, schools and communities. Being involved in an inclusive, empowering, socially and morally responsible organisation can have a hugely positive impact on a child’s mental well-being, all the way through into adulthood. Team-work, problem-solving, working towards goals and developing beliefs, all help to imbue our children with resilience, determination, a strong sense of identity and belonging, and a wider respect and appreciation of the communities they live within. Every child has a place, every child has a voice at Brownies. And it is precisely these kinds of activities that help to nurture and develop healthy young minds from an early age.
And this is precisely what Mummy realised.
Most of us are aware that 1 in 4 adults experience some sort of mental health issue in any given year, ranging from stress and anxiety, to depression and worse. But did you know that:
- 3 in 4 mental illnesses take root in childhood, before the age of 18
- 1 in 10 children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem.
- Yet current mental health services are only able to provide support for 25% of children who need it.
The statistics are staggering. Mental health problems in children are REAL and 75% of them are currently not being treated. It is OUR duty, as parents, guardians, carers and teachers, to realise that good mental health begins in childhood.
The government may have pledged 1.25 billion by 2020 to improve mental health services for children but the buck stops at us, right here, right now. We are not accountable for everything that our children are exposed to, but what we are responsible for, is granting them these opportunities, setting their frameworks, positioning boundaries and cushioning everything with love, patience and understanding.
Brownie camp allowed Mummy to watch as her daughter integrated into the Brownie pack. She fought back tears as she was accepted by her peers. She felt proud as she witnessed her daughter coping well with independence and responsibility. Mummy looked on as both herself and her daughter let go of their fears and experienced happiness, pure and simple.
Mummy would swap the cushioned lounger in her back garden any day for this privilege.