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Blog | 05 February 2024

How Scouts helped me tackle anxiety and learn resilience


This Children’s Mental Health Week, we’re giving a voice to Hannah, an inspirational Explorer Scout who’s learning to overcome her anxiety.

‘Courageous and confident’. This is how Hannah’s Scout Leader describes her. However, it hasn’t always been that easy for Hannah, who often experiences anxiety. To everyone else, she may seem fine, but not all mental health problems are visible.

Yet, Hannah’s determination to overcome her challenges and put herself forward hasn’t gone unnoticed. She inspires her peers, especially in her role as a Young Leader with Beavers.

Hannah’s willingness to go the extra mile has even been noticed by Chief Scout, Bear Grylls. She was recognised as one of his Unsung Heroes at the 2023 award ceremony.

We caught up with this resilient Explorer Scout to find out how she tackles her mental health head on. 

This image shows Chief Scout Bear Grylls standing next to Hannah, a teenage girl with long brown hair, who's holding up a certificate from Bear Grylls. Hannah wears a purple and orange necker, and a brown shirt with a Scout badge on. They're both smiling for the camera.
Hannah with Chief Scout Bear Grylls

Hi Hannah, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I'm a 15-year-old Explorer Scout, and I’ve been involved with Scouts since I joined as a Beaver when I was 6. I’m going to be doing my GCSEs this year (which I’m not looking forward to!).

I hope to study animal management in sixth form. I love animals and I have a particular fascination with snakes and lizards, so I hope to work in a zoo one day. My dream would be to work in Australia Zoo, but I'd have to take my dog, Gem, with me.

How does your mental health affect your day-to-day life?

I sometimes find day to day activities challenging, as I get nervous and anxious around people I don't know, or in large groups of people. A trip to London, being on a tube or even just grocery shopping in the local Sainsbury's, for example, might bring on a panic attack. Knowing this might happen then makes me worry about going out at all.

As I get older, I’ve learned strategies to try and distract myself from these feelings. I use techniques like controlled breathing, or I identify a number of sounds, things I can see, or parts of my body to list, which makes me focus on something else and helps me cope in these situations until they pass.

I have great support from teachers, chaplains, the mental health support team at school (who’ve taught me these coping strategies), my family at home and the volunteers at Scouts, which really helps.

How has Scouts supported you and helped you learn resilience?

Having been involved with Scouts for so long, even its familiarity gives me confidence. It offers me a place to be myself, where I can step up to help and feel like I'm useful.

I love taking part in activities I don't normally get to do, and it's easier to challenge myself with new things when I know support is there for me from my volunteers and friends if I need it.

This image shows Hannah, a teenage girl with long brown hair who's smiling at the camera. She's taking the selfie in a room with tiled walls. She wears a long sleeved black jumper.

So inspiring to hear you’re a Young Leader and have even stepped up to run meetings with your Beavers. What kind of things do you get up to as a Young Leader?

Becoming a Young Leader with Beavers was brilliant. I love helping out with the little kids and teaching them new and fun things is wonderful to watch and be part of. Our Beaver Leader, Tors, has been a fantastic mentor to me, and the whole team are really supportive.

I try to think of new activities that the Beavers will enjoy, but actually, the old faithful games are still going strong!

Congratulations on your award, how does it feel to be an Unsung Hero?

Honestly, unbelievable! Receiving this award has been a huge boost for my confidence. I didn’t know that Tony, our leader, had put me forward, so it was a big surprise.

It’s made me realise how I truly have become more confident, and kept going when things were tough, which I probably wouldn't have recognised on my own. It’s shown me that I can achieve things I never thought I could. Also, meeting Bear Grylls was pretty amazing!

Finally, what’s been the highlight of your time at Scouts so far?

I really loved it when my Explorer Unit went paddleboarding on a local lake, as it was the first time I’d plucked up the courage to talk to new people, and made me realise it's not as scary as I thought. It was also a beautiful evening, which made it even more memorable.

It’s been great chatting to you Hannah. It’s lovely to hear how you’re tackling your anxiety with such resilience, thank you for sharing with us. Your story is so inspiring, and we’re really glad that receiving an Unsung Hero award has boosted your confidence even more.

It’s Children’s Mental Health Week, so to help support the mental health of young people around you, check out Place2Be’s Children’s Mental Health Week toolkit. Please remember, everybody’s different. While Hannah’s coping techniques for anxiety may work for her, they might not be quite right for someone else. You can also look at our own support and guidance on mental health for more advice.

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