Blog | 1st Healing Scouts launch art project to stand up for mental wellbeing
In honour of Scout Community Month we shine a light on Scout Groups across the UK who are working on A Million Hands to tackle issues affecting their communities. This week we look at how 1st Healing Scouts took the simple act of painting rocks and turned it into a successful community art project, kick-starting conversations about mental wellbeing in their community. We spoke to Louise Drakes, Scout leader of the 1st Healing Troop, to see how they made it happen.
Hi Louise! Could you tell us a little bit about what steps your Scouts took to better understand the issue?
My son, who is an Explorer Scout, was horribly bullied at school. When things were difficult, he escaped into art and crafts. It helped immensely. Whenever he was busy being creative, he was notably more confident and relaxed.
When he realised that a few of our Scouts were also experiencing problems with bullying, he came in to talk to the Group about his experiences, and about the ways in which being creative helps him to feel mentally strong and resilient. This encouraged the Scouts to open up about their own feelings, and led to us discussing what constitutes good mental wellbeing.
We then combined the issue of mental wellbeing with our Circus Skills Activity badge. We made stress balls and practiced juggling whenever we felt anxious or stressed. This went down really well with the Scouts, and it kick-started the idea that we could look at mental wellbeing for our next AMH project.
Where did the rock-painting idea come from?
I saw a (non-Scouting-related) group on Facebook, where members of the public were painting rocks with messages of positivity, then leaving them in public spaces for strangers to find. Usually, that stranger will go on to hide it again, so the cycle goes on and on, and the positive message continues to spread. It’s a very simple activity, but the whole process is really uplifting and soothing, both for the person who paints the rock and for the person who finds it.
When I told my Scouts about the idea, they suggested that we should make our own stones as part of AMH. As well as hiding them for strangers, we have been making special memory stones for people with dementia, and delivering friendship stones to victims of domestic violence living in the local refuge.
That’s such a great idea. What positive impact has it had on your Scouts and their families?
The Scouts have said that they feel happy and relaxed when making and hiding stones. It’s been especially great for Scouts who have problems with concentration.
One of the Scouts has ADHD, and has a tendency to stay in playing video games, which can exacerbate the cyber-bullying he has experienced. Since we started the project, he is always out on the estate looking for rocks with his mum, and is able to enjoy more green spaces. Parents have also seen an improvement in their mental wellbeing, and some are feeling physically fitter now that they’re always running around rock hunting!
The stones are so creative; there are so many colourful designs!
The dragon stones are especially uplifting. Scouts have been hiding them inside glittery eggs!
How about the wider community? What do they think of the AMH project?
The stones we’ve distributed to the more vulnerable members of the community have been received with so much appreciation. We’ve made 800 in total, which is a real success! The dementia patients in particular have really benefitted. Holding and squeezing the stones is very relaxing for them.
How are you telling the world about what you have done for AMH?
We’ve set up two Facebook pages where people who find the stones can post photos and stories, which means we have seen so many happy faces pop up on our feed, and can measure our impact.
The Scouts have also written to their local MP to ask about what the council is doing to increase the mental wellbeing of our community.
Has anything surprised you about AMH?
I’ve been surprised at how effective it’s been for promoting Scouting in our area. Lots of members of the community came along to a rock painting session we held, and more people have been asking about how they can join the Movement.
That’s amazing. Thanks for all your hard work, Louise. Before we go, what’s your favourite thing about Scouting?
I love our community. I went into Scouting to find friends and found a family. Our Scouts recently made contact with Scouts in France, and are hoping rock painting will take off there!
Don't forget: Your A Million Hands Big Moment (21 April 2018)
In spring 2018, young people across the UK will be taking part in the A Million Hands Big Moment to take action on their chosen issue. You'll find simple, step-by-step resource packs below to support you in planning and delivering A Million Hands in the run up to the Big Moment.
Scout Groups working on mental health as their A Million Hands issue, will send a petition to their MP during the week of the 21 April 2018 as part of the A Million Hands Big Moment. By taking part, young people will raise awareness, make a positive difference to people in their community and reaffirm the message that everyone has mental, as well as physical health.
Mental wellbeing Big Moment resource packs
Mental wellbeing and resilience resource pack - Explorers and Network