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Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

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Tune in when you switch on

Talking online has become a big part of our lives. When you switch on, do you really listen to what people say?

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You’ll need

  • Device with access to the internet

Before you begin

  • This is a great activity for an online session. Check out the advice on using Zoom and other popular digital platforms and the guidance on being safe online.
  • Let everyone know that you’re going to be talking about mental health in this session and remind them that they can take a step back from conversations at any time. If you know anyone in the group has experience of mental health problems, talk to them (and their parents or carers) before the activity to make sure they're happy to take part and find out if you need to make any changes.
  • Make sure everyone knows where they can go for support if they or someone they know needs it. We’ve included some information and links below and if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare (including their online experiences), follow the Yellow Card reporting processes.
  • In this activity, everyone will play a game called Destination unknown to polish their listening skills. They’ll then talk about active listening, learn how to listen online, and pledge to make a difference by tuning in (and asking twice) when chatting to friends online.

Destination unknown

  1. Everyone should split into small groups. Once the person leading the activity’s explained what to do, each group should go into their own breakout room.
  2. Everyone should think of a destination they’d like to visit on holiday in the future. They should keep it a secret and think about things like the climate, the terrain, the food, and the activities they’d to do there.
  3. Everyone should take it in turns to talk about the destination they’d like to visit, without telling anyone where it is or the name of any attractions or landmarks.  

For example, if someone was thinking of Australia they could say they’d like to go somewhere that’s warm during the UK’s winter months, that has lots of beaches, where people speak English and where they could try surfing.

  1. The rest of the team should work together to really tune in to what’s being said. Once they’ve listened carefully to everything, they should decide on a suitable place the person could visit. They should explain where they’ve chosen, backing up their decision with reasons they heard from the person speaking.
  2. After everyone has had their turn, teams should discuss how it felt to really listen in and think about what the person was saying. Was it easy? What made it difficult?

What is active listening?

  1. The person leading the activity should ask everyone what they think ‘active listening’ means in the context of mental health.
  2. Everyone should chat about how to be a good active listener. What do they think active listening involves?
  3. The person leading the activity should introduce the five steps to good active listening. Did people manage to think of them all? Did they come up with anything extra that’s not listed?
  1. Always listen closely. Especially when someone’s speaking about their mental health, try your best to focus on what they’re saying without getting distracted. There are lots of ways to show someone that you’re listening including facing them, making eye contact, and trying not to fidget. Not all of these things work for everyone (for example, some autistic people find it difficult to maintain eye contact), so find what works for you.
  2. Show interest. Once someone’s started talking to you, ask them questions about what they were saying to show you were listening and find out more about what they mean. If you feel able to, you could share some suggestions of things that have helped you if you’ve been in a similar situation – remember you’re talking about the other person though, so try not to talk for too long about yourself and don’t feel like you have to offer solutions.
  3. Be positive about the future. Sometimes, when people are feeling really low, it’s hard to imagine things getting better. Try to remind them that the future will get better and that there are people that they can turn to for support, including support services and charities (we’ve included some details below).
  4. Show you’re on their side. Try to make the person feel as comfortable as you can and don’t judge what they say. You don’t have to try to solve what they’re telling you: just being there to listen will make a huge difference.
  5. Get back in touch if you can. If you feel comfortable, get back in touch and see how the person’s getting on. Are things any better? Could you signpost them to any sources of support?


Tune in when you switch on

  1. Everyone should think about how they chat to their friends online. How could they practice active listening when they’re chatting in this way?
  2. Everyone should make a pledge to practice active listening when they switch on. They should write their pledge down and plan to update the group on their progress in four weeks.
  3. The person leading the activity should remind everyone that they don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health. They don’t have to have all of the answers: sometimes the most important thing to do is listen and share places people could go for further support.
  4. The person leading the activity should remind everyone that they should never try to ‘diagnose’ anyone. They should make sure everyone knows what to do in an emergency and what to do if someone says something that makes them feel uncomfortable.

I chat to my friends over video calls. I’m pledging to really listen to what people say and how they say it, and I’m going to pay attention to their body language too. If anything seems off, I’m going to follow up with my friends afterwards.

I chat to my friends by typing on social media like Twitter and Facebook. I’m going to ask if people are OK twice and really think through what they’re saying. I’m going to check in with my friends more, including using other ways to stay in contact like giving them a call.

I chat to my friends when we play video games together. I’m going to really listen to what people are saying and notice if people are unusually quiet. If something worries me, or if I’m not sure if someone’s joking or being serious, I’m going to check in and ask twice whether they’re OK.

The Time to Change campaign has some great resources that you could look at to help you get started.

In a medical emergency, always call 999. Speak calmly and clearly and give the operator as much detail as you can. You can ask a trusted adult to help you do this.

For everyone

  • Samaritans: call 116 123 or email
  • Shout: text SHOUT to 85258
  • Contact your GP: your GP can provide help, but there might be a longer wait.
  • Contact NHS 111 (known as NHS 24 in Scotland): 111 is available 24/7 for urgent medical care.

If you’re under 19

  • Young Minds: text ‘YM’ to 85258.
  • Childline: call 0800 1111 or visit their website for information or to chat to a counsellor.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland

For adult volunteers

  • If someone tells you something that makes you worried, for example, that they’ve been thinking about hurting themselves or someone else, it’s important not to deal with it on your own.
  • If someone tells you something worrying at Scouts, you should always tell the person in charge.
  • You should always tell a trusted adult (like a parent or teacher) as soon as you can. Try to give them as much detail as you can remember.
  • If someone tells you something and asks you to keep it a secret, you may not want to break their trust, or you may worry that they could fall out with you if you tell someone.
  • But if you don't feel comfortable with what they’ve told you, or you think they (or someone else) could be in danger, it’s important to tell a trusted adult what they’ve said.
  • You could tell them that you need to tell a trusted adult because you can’t deal with this yourself or you’re worried about them, but ask if there’s someone they’d prefer you to talk to.
  • It may feel like you’re breaking their trust, but telling a trusted adult will keep everyone safe.


When people talk online, sometimes they don’t tune in to what others are really saying, especially when people are making jokes. How could people be more aware of what others are saying? How could people check if something was meant as a joke or not? Is following up offline (with a friend someone knows in real life) a good thing to do?

It’s important to remember that everyone has mental health, just like everyone has physical health. How could people do more to help tear down the taboo around speaking about mental health? How could people encourage others to learn more about mental health and wellbeing?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Online safety

Supervise young people when they’re online and give them advice about staying safe. Take a look at our online safety or bullying guidance. The NSPCC offers more advice and guidance, too. If you want to know more about specific social networks and games, Childnet has information and safety tips for apps. You can also report anything that’s worried you online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection CommandAs always, if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare, including their online experiences, follow the Yellow Card to make a report.

Phones and cameras

Make sure parents and carers are aware and have given consent for photography.

If some of the group are finding giving a country as a destination really easy, you could challenge them to choose a city or area.

  • Be especially sensitive if anyone has experience of mental health problems – you may want to chat to them (and their parents and carers) before the activity to find out if there are any topics you should avoid. People only have to share as much as they want to. No one has to share their deepest secrets or feelings if they feel uncomfortable – they can still chat about their wellbeing and things that help on a day-to-day basis.
  • If anyone is uncomfortable talking about their ideal destination, they could write it down, use the chat box feature, or draw a picture for everyone.  
  • Some people may find it easier to understand the concept of asking twice if you explain it in another way. Why not try creating a comic strip conversation? See an example comic strip conversation on the topic of bereavement. ​

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

If you enjoyed this activity and taking action to promote better mental health for all, why not learn more and become a Wellbeing Champion? Scouts have developed loads more activities as part of the A Million Hands partnership with Mind, SAMH and Inspire NI.

If anyone in the group is happy to share their experiences of being an active listener when someone was talking about their mental health, you could ask them to lead the first part of the activity.