Girls' mental well-being is under threat. Find out what girls told us about the pressure they're under and how we're supporting girls
Girls are experiencing too much pressure in their lives and they want to see change
Our Girls' Attitudes Survey 2015 revealed that mental well-being had become girls' top concern. So we did further research to understand what made it such a priority for them. Our initial survey showed that:
- 62% of girls said they knew a girl or young woman their age who has experienced a mental health problem
- 37% of girls said they themselves had personally needed help with their mental health.
In the research, girls told us in their own words about their well-being, the pressures they face and the change they want to see.
Girls said that they're experiencing unprecedented levels of stress and pressure: to do well at school, to look and behave in certain ways, and to measure up to expectations from friends, family, school and the media. The combination of these can be unmanageable. For many girls, it is having a damaging affect on their well-being.
Experiences of everyday sexism including sexual harassment at school, unrealistic pressures around appearance, online harassment and abuse, and stereotypical representations of girls and women in the media are all taking their toll.
A lack of support
Despite the huge pressures they're under, girls feel that the adults in their lives are out of touch with their concerns. They're not getting the information and help they need to remain resilient in the face of these pressures and to challenge the everyday sexism they experience.
What Girlguiding is doing
We're supporting girls through our Think Resilient programme
Or trained Peer Educators are delivering our Think Resilient programme, up and down the country. It's designed to build mental well-being and grow resilience in Brownies, Guides and members of The Senior Section.
We're calling on government to tackle the pressure girls are under
Our research listens to girls and it is clear that action is needed to provide more support to help reverse the decline in their well-being - and prevent low well-being in the future.
We are calling for the government to:
Listen to girls and young women, take them seriously and make sure their voices count
To better understand the issues affecting girls’ well-being, all decision-makers need to listen to girls’ voices and engage them in the decisions that affect their lives.
Demand that schools take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment
To make the whole school environment safe for all students. Schools should be required to address the high levels of sexual harassment through effective and clear school policies, support for reporting and clear sanctions. A statutory, modernised Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) programme should support prevention of sexual harassment.
Teach wellbeing and respect through compulsory PSHE and RSE
To make Personal, Social, Health and Economics Education (PSHE) a statutory entitlement for all young people. This will ensure there is time for, and focus on, high quality education on mental health and positive well-being. This should specifically include gender equality and body confidence to help prevent girls from normalising narrow beauty ideals and to challenge the pressure to be perfect.
High quality RSE should be a statutory part of PSHE with a modernised curriculum that includes teaching on sexual consent, gender equality, healthy relationships, online safety, violence against women and girls, and LGBT relationships. This would help to challenge some of the gender stereotypes and double standards that create pressure in girls’ lives.
Stop children’s exposure to harmful sexualised images and content in mainstream media
For government and regulators to stop children’s exposure to harmful sexualised content in the media and to address the negative and damaging consequences this can have on young people.
Think Resilient: Girls’ wellbeing explored
Read the full report to find out more about the state of girls' mental wellbeing, and what we can do to support them.
Katie, 15, Girlguiding Advocate
Young women need a space to talk about issues such as their mental wellbeing without fear of being judged. I'm a very anxious person - I get stressed about nearly everything! But when I'm with my Girlguiding unit, I leave my worries at the door and spend a couple of hours having fun, which helps me be a more relaxed person and keep my concerns in perspective.