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Scouts grow up to have better mental health


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#1 ianwilkins

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Posted 10 November 2016 - 03:24 AM

Ok, it's a UK study, and it appears to be a strong correlation rather than a causal link but...it appears, if you didn't know already, that we do a good thing...

 

https://www.newscien...alth-at-age-50/


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#2 qwazse

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Posted 10 November 2016 - 06:08 AM

Or, maybe you all we doing a terrible job recruiting the crazies. :p

Sorry, reversing causality is my bread and butter. I haven't been able to load the article, but look forward to reading it.

Seriously, though, the last two suicides in our small school district were of boys who were friends with, but not members of, our venturing crew. It left me wondering if I had made an effort, would they have had that one more resource they would have needed to fit back the demons.
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#3 ianwilkins

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Posted 10 November 2016 - 08:14 AM

Yes, maybe parents deciding their kids should join scouts and guides are better at handing on mental resilience or something?

 

Here's another source if you're having trouble accessing the first one...

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk...otland-37923133


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#4 qwazse

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Posted 10 November 2016 - 09:44 AM

Yes, maybe parents deciding their kids should join scouts and guides are better at handing on mental resilience or something?

 

Here's another source if you're having trouble accessing the first one...

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk...otland-37923133

 

Thanks. New Scientist has a reputation for loading funny depending on the connection.

Got the source article: http://jech.bmj.com/...8.full.pdf html(access may vary).

Retrospective surveys are fraught with limitations, which the authors list in technical detail.

 

Those aside, probably the greatest challenge is to know if the program of today will work on youth the same way that the program in the seventies seems to have done for these 50-year-olds.

 

I do see the young adults I know deploying their scout skills (if they've gained them) to great effect.


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#5 blw2

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Posted 10 November 2016 - 09:59 AM

We had a recent scout suicide in these parts.  Not anyone I know, but have reason to think that his dad was a very involved scouter.  Not sure, but someone thought the scout may have been SPL, either now or sometime in the past....  I have no idea about his story, adult lead or not, etc ....I really know nothing....

 

So anyway, because of this I was only just recently thinking about this very issue..... scouting and mental health......and wondering what harm is done on occasion.... 

 

I was thinking that scouting would typically give a young man better grounding, support, and so on.... to deal with stuff outside of scouts....but scouting might also add pressures and problems too.

just thinking out loud

such as adult lead issues squashing the fun and adding pressure.... can't drive till Eagle, and so on....


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#6 NJCubScouter

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Posted 10 November 2016 - 10:30 AM

I'll have to tell my wife about this. The study was based on people born in a particular month, and it is the month my wife was born. And she was a Girl Scout, at least for awhile, though of course not in the UK where the study was done.
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#7 David CO

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Posted 10 November 2016 - 11:03 AM

But how does participation in scouting effect the mental health of the adult leaders?


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#8 Eagle94-A1

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Posted 10 November 2016 - 11:21 AM

 

 

I was thinking that scouting would typically give a young man better grounding, support, and so on.... to deal with stuff outside of scouts....but scouting might also add pressures and problems too.

just thinking out loud

such as adult lead issues squashing the fun and adding pressure.... can't drive till Eagle, and so on....

 

We had one Scout attempt suicide a few years past. He was extremely active and wonderful  Scout. However his personal life took a dive with his parents' divorce and mother's remarriage. Scouting was his out, his way of relieving pressure at home etc. But his grades suffered. It was when Mom took him out of Scouts because of his grades that he attempted suicide. Thankfully he failed and got help. If memory serves, his psychologist told the mom taking him out of Scouts at all was a mistake. Eventually he got back involved, and transferred to a different troop when the mom and stepdad moved.


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"Train 'em. Trust 'em. LET THEM LEAD!" William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt


#9 meyerc13

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Posted 11 November 2016 - 10:34 AM

This is interesting, but I'm not sure what to make of it.  Mental health is such a complicated, and not yet completely understood topic, that the correlation is interesting but figuring out what it means is difficult.  I've had the unfortunate opportunity to learn and experience more about fighting mental health problems than I ever expected to.

 

There is a lot of ongoing research, and scientists are understanding more about mental health each year.  There is a definite physical component to mental health, and research is beginning to point toward a genetic predisposition as well.  Yet, just like with other physical ailments such as diabetes, lifestyle also plays a factor.  A diabetic who controls his diet will be more likely to keep his disease under control.  Likewise, I can think of several reasons why Scouting could have a positive impact on mental health:

  • Exposure to sunlight - increases serotonin levels.  Low serotonin can lead to depression, increasing serotonin levels in the brain can reduce depression.
  • Exercise - increases serotonin levels and also releases endorphins.  Endorphins make you feel good, so another way to combat symptoms of depression.
  • Positive thinking
  • Increased social interaction
  • Setting and achieving goals

All of these are associated with Scouting, and all of these are suggested ways to help combat depression.  In some cases, these may be enough in and of themselves to overcome or prevent mild cases of depression.  Even in severe cases of depression, these are recommended along with medication to overcome depression.

 

It makes sense, but Scouting isn't a magic formula that will heal all mental illness by itself.  Even with a healthy diet, many diabetics will continue to need medication to control their illness.  Many with mental health problems also need medication in addition to positive lifestyle choices.  The challenge is, for those with severe mental health problems, making those positive lifestyle choices can be nearly impossible to do on their own.  And sadly, due to the stigma of mental illness, many who are suffering don't want to discuss it with even their closest friends and family members.

 

I know my children are predisposed to mental health problems; while I haven't had the genetic testing done to prove it, there are enough cases of severe mental health problems in both my wife's family tree and mine that I am almost positive what the tests would show.  Both depression and bipolar disorder are common in our families, and studies over the past ten years have started to point toward certain genes that are linked to patients with these illnesses.

 

We had a local story in the news a few years back, and frankly it scared me quite badly.  A straight A student, involved in Scouting and martial arts, held his class hostage by using firearms he brought to school.  The description of this boy fits my son exactly - Second degree black belt, Boy Scout, intelligent, does well in school.  Eventually the boy took his own life without harming any of the hostages.  I'd like to think that in this case Scouting may have been why this mentally ill boy didn't hurt anyone but himself.  Sadly, like so many others he hid his inner turmoil and Scouting and Martial Art by themselves weren't enough to fight off the illness attacking his brain.  Sadly, because we as a society do so poorly in our handling of the mentally ill, like so many others he hid what he was feeling and nobody knew he was sick.  Maybe if we all understood mental illness better and started treating it like the physical ailment that it is, perhaps this boy would have gotten the treatment that in hindsight he so obviously needed.

 

So yes, Scouting undoubtedly helps those with mental illness, but we can't expect it to cure or prevent all cases.  What we can do is understand the signs of mental illness and watch our Scouts for those signs.  A Scout or Scouter who is able to pierce the illusion that someone with mental illness builds around themselves and convince that sick person to seek out the additional help they need might just save that person's life.


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Yours in Scouting,

 

Chris Meyer

 

Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner 2015-Present

Lion Guide 2016-Present

Cubmaster 2013-2016

Father of a Boy Scout 2016-Present

 


#10 David CO

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Posted 11 November 2016 - 11:02 AM

I think we need to recognize the limitations of this study.  Scouts who were born in 1958, their experiences in scouting, and the benefits they received from participating in scouting, might not reflect the reality today.

 

Cub Scouting in the 1960's and Boy Scouting in the 1970's were not the same as the program we have today.

 

We should also consider the possibility that children with disabilities were under-represented in scouting in the 60's and 70's.  


Edited by David CO, 11 November 2016 - 11:27 AM.

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#11 qwazse

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Posted 11 November 2016 - 12:29 PM

I read the source article in full this morning.

 

To be clear, the effect amounts to a two point increase on a 100 point questionnaire. That means something to folks thinking about social programs and at-risk services. But not so much to folks in one neighborhood trying to figure out what volunteer program they can put on for their kids. Not at all to a school psychologist trying to decide which kid will develop the next anxiety disorder.

 

That said, I do have a colleague who has been working on exposure therapies via some structured outdoor experiences ...


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