Girlguiding units from across Torbay have been learning how to protect their mental health with a little help from Torbay Council

Torbay Council have funded 500 badges for girls who attend groups from Rainbows (four-seven year-olds) right through to Rangers (14 years plus), and everything in between.

Girlguides work towards achieving badges in a range of activities and skills – everything from crafting and geocaching to photography and upcycling.

The latest badge to be introduced, called the Twinkle for Heather badge, is for mental health awareness. Girls complete activities aimed at promoting good mental wellbeing.

The Council thought to be the first council in the South West to offer this support, which has also included training for leaders.

Twinkle is named after Heather Porter, a Rainbow leader from Cumbria who took her own life in April 2022. Twinkle was her Rainbow name. Her unit wanted to do something in her memory.

They devised the badge, which is for anyone from the age of four to adulthood, to enable and support the five basic steps to mental wellbeing – mindfulness, connecting with others, being physically active, learning new skills and giving to others.

Two staff members from our Public Health team spotted a news story about the badge and approached a retired colleague, who is active in Torbay’s Girlguiding community, to see if it was something they would like to introduce in Torbay, as a way of linking to the council’s own wellbeing and suicide prevention work.

All the girls taking part make a self-care memory box which contains activities completed during the challenge.

Lincoln Sargeant, Torbay’s Director of Public Health, said: “This is such an amazing way to remember someone who has lost their life in such tragic circumstances.

“Heather’s legacy lives on – and not just in the people who knew her and loved her – but among young people in Torbay, hundreds of miles away from Cumbria.

“We were pleased to be able fund this challenge for Torbay’s young girls. Good mental health is vital for people’s wellbeing and if we can start that positive thinking from a young age, even better.”

Rachel Offerdal, the Girlguiding Torbay Division Commissioner, said: “I wasn’t aware of this badge when I was contacted by two employees from the council. I did some research and contacted one of the founders. Be Well is one of the six themes in our Guiding programme and we’ve used a lot of the activities in there as part of this project.

“I look after Brownies, Guides and Rangers and they’ve all taken this on board and it has made a real difference to them, particularly the Rangers who have so much to juggle. They are still putting things in their memory boxes.”

“As one of my Brownies put it: ‘it is OK to be sad or happy - we must learn to talk about things'. As leaders we have really seen development in all ages when it comes to talking about life.”

Around 90 per cent of Torbay Girlguiding units are taking part in the Twinkle for Heather badge and Rachel has also had some interest from Devon County Girlguiding and the South West Region Girlguiding.

Guide Beatrice said: “We should all remember Heather, no matter how hard it may be, and always express how we’re feeling. I really enjoyed making memory boxes to show all the work we have done towards this badge. It was nice to keep it all in one place and look through it every so often.”

 

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