Girls Attitudes Survey findings show reality of pressures on girls

Girlguiding Advocate and Girlguiding Scotland member Isla Whateley blogs about the shocking findings of the Girls Attitudes Survey.

Girlguiding’s latest Girls’ Attitudes Survey has unveiled some shocking findings on young women’s wellbeing – including that almost half of girls aged 17 to 21 have sought help with mental health issues.

As someone who has experienced mental health problems both first-hand and through friends, I think the research simply reflects the troubling facts about how much more prominent this issue is becoming in girls and young women’s everyday lives.

It’s clear where some of the pressure is coming from. With the ever-increasing sexualisation of women and girls in the media and within society, it’s no wonder that three quarters of girls aged 11 to 21 say that they worry about sexual harassment and report that it negatively affects their lives. And once you add the social pressures of social media, it makes even more sense why so many girls think this way.

From my experience, it definitely feels like adults are out of touch with the issues that really affect young people’s lives. Thinking back to my personal, social and health education (PHSE) lessons at school, almost all of the topics were about drug use, alcohol and smoking – things that Girlguiding’s research has found to be among the biggest concerns for parents.

However, most of these things felt irrelevant to me and my friends – and there was next to no teaching on mental health or online safety which Girlguiding’s research shows are major concerns for girls aged 13 to 21. We need to make sure adults keep pace with what pressures girls face today so they can give them the right support.

Girlguiding Scotland gives girls and young women a safe space where they can be themselves and develop their confidence and resilience. It’s certainly made the world of difference to me – from speaking out as one of the charity’s Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament to providing friendship and fun that have helped when times feel tough.

But too many girls are slipping through the net. These findings should act as a wake-up call for decision makers, both in Holyrood and Westminster, to listen to girls’ concerns and work together to help them lead happier and healthier lives.