With approximately one in five Australians experiencing mental illness each year, the importance of friendships, getting outdoors and giving back to your community has never been more significant. World Mental Health day is being held on Saturday, October 10 and serves as a reminder for all of us to care for our fellow human beings. The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award provides young people around Australia and the world with the framework to learn how to set and strive for goals, how to overcome obstacles in reaching these goals, and how to work independently and as a part of a team, resulting in what can be great personal growth, development and resilience.
The prevalence of mental health issues are notably higher amongst youth, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics reporting younger people are more likely to have a mental disorder than older people, with just over a quarter (26%) of people aged 16–24 having a disorder compared to only 6% of people aged 75–85. Further, a Mission Australia Youth Survey revealed that according to young people, the main issue of concern is coping with stress and for 76.9% of respondents friendships were highly valued.
As human beings, we are instinctively drawn to forge relationships with one another. Bonds that are established through interactions are of key importance when looking into the role that relationships have in mental illness. Positive friendships have proven to be of assistance to individuals when they are faced by adversities. The Duke of Ed Award is undertaken over 6 to 18 months and generates the opportunity for Participants to meet like-minded people around the same age as them, facilitating friendships and longer term supportive relationships. These friendships are crucial in the development of those who partake in the Award.
A SANE Research Report revealed that “Over two-thirds of those affected by mental illness reported feeling lonely ‘often’ or ‘all the time’.” Relationship building is at the forefront of the Award and through its careful construction the aim is to encourage youth toward a path of happiness and success. Through facilitating friendships, participating in the Award assists in reducing the number of youth that experience mental health issues.
Physical Activity and Outdoor Adventures
The Mental Health Association of NSW have revealed that physical activity and mental well-being are more linked than what was previously realised. “Physical activity has a positive impact on mental well being. This is particularly important as studies have revealed that by 2020, depression alone will constitute one of the largest health problems worldwide.” The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award requires youth to engage in regular physical recreation as a key component of completing the Award, with Gold Award Holders having to complete a minimum of an hour of physical recreation each week for a full year.
Through the Adventurous Journey component of the Award, recipients undertake a journey in a group through an unfamiliar environment and this typically means connecting with the outdoors, which is known to make people happier. Beyond Blue revealed that “Growing evidence shows that access to the natural environment improves health and well-being, as well as preventing disease and helping people recover from illness.” Nature acts as a soother to the mind and body. Through completing the Award, Participants are not only challenging themselves to physically achieve their goals, they are also allowing themselves to lead happier and more fulfilled lives.
Volunteering/ Service Component
The service component of the Award requires young Participants to give service (volunteer) for at least one hour every week for between 3 and 12 months.
Volunteering encourages youth to garner a more wholesome perspective on life and is also proven to make them happier as giving back to the community is highly rewarding. Research published by Volunteering Australia indicates Volunteers are much more likely to be involved in other aspects of community life than non volunteers and that volunteers are happier, healthier and sleep better than those who don’t volunteer. 96% of volunteers say that it “makes people happier.” and 95% of volunteers say that volunteering is related to feelings of wellbeing.
With over 23,000 young Australians participating in the Award every year and over 80,000 volunteer assessors there's no doubt that The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award is having a positive impact on mental health.
If you’re feeling down or like you need help now please do not hesitate to contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or if you wish to find out more about the impact and benefits of doing the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award go to Award Impact