Menstruation. Child birth. Mental health.
They are topics that many people are not comfortable discussing in a public setting.
But that makes them all the more important to be addressed with the next generation of young women.
And it was women’s health and mental health in particular that were the focus of the recent 2017 Global Action Summit for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington, held at Camp Robbinswold on the Olympic Peninsula.
Bellevue teen, Haleigh Gage Ferland, 15, was given the honor of being selected as part of the Girls Scouts Global Action Team.
Along with about 19 other high school-aged scouts from around Western Washington, Ferland spent an entire weekend teaching younger, middle school peers about the importance of health care for all, in particular women’s health and mental health.
“I want to make a difference in the world while educating other people and learning about myself. I’m excited to learn more about issues surrounding access to health care and spread awareness of this topic,” Ferland said. “If more people are aware of this issue, especially the younger future leaders, it will be much easier to actually make a change.”
The scouts split up into small groups to teach the cadets in stations, conducting activities such as playing a Jeopardy-style game to learn about maternal health, and busting commonly held myths about menstruation, such as the idea that a girl can’t go swimming while on her period.
The sixth-grade to eighth-grade cadets also learned how to make eco-friendly reusable maxi pads out of cotton and wool, which they were then able to donate to women in need, both in other parts of the world and at local women’s shelters.
On the mental health side of things, cadets did activities such as making bookmarks with the facts that they learned about mental health so that they would always be able to remember them. The girls talked about mental health in the workplace, noting that the same priority for physical ailments is not given for mental health needs.
Just as with reproductive health, Kathryn Zigweid, another Girl Scout, feels that there is a mental health stigma for teenagers in the United States, making them ashamed to admit to having a mental health disorder and seek help.
“There’s a giant stigma, especially in high school, from the fact that they may not be the same as everyone else,” Zigweid said.
Additionally, the number of other worries on students’ minds may keep them too preoccupied to focus on their own mental health and “they usually don’t seek the help they need because they’re too overwhelmed with everything else,” she said.
The summit was a special experience for the teens because it allowed them to connect and bond with other Girl Scouts their age, which, as Zigweid explained, is a rare opportunity since there are fewer high school Girl Scouts.
“The experience for me was really fulfilling because I got to meet a bunch of people I didn’t know existed, because I didn’t know there were so many Girl Scouts my age,” Zigweid said.
“As kids get older, they think it’s not as fun, they think it’s boring — which it isn’t, it’s better as you get older,” she added.