How Outward Bound instructor’s help build wellbeing
Back to our blog

How Outward Bound instructor’s help build wellbeing

Ailie Carne, Marketing & Communications

A photo story in the The New Yorker stopped me in my tracks this week. “If you are 17 years old, roughly half of your adolescence and almost all of your high school career has been lived under the shadow of COVID-19.”

The accompanying photos and testimonials taken in the spaces all teens have spent the majority of their time - their bedrooms - brought to life just how small their world has been.

It made me think of a question Steph, a Senior Instructor from Outward Bound Ullswater asked in October 2020 “How can we expect young people to go through all of that when we’ve never prepared them for it?

Here we are in 2022 and that question hasn’t dated. I don’t know if I’m more alarmed by how long this pandemic has lasted or how the wider world still doesn’t seem to have realised how much support many young people need right now.

The role our instructors play...

Our recent report on wellbeing examines the three key ways that Outward Bound courses support wellbeing in young people - one being building connections and relationships with others. The social connections young people have are a key driver of wellbeing. People who are well socially connected to friends, family or their community are happier, physically healthier, with fewer mental health problems and live longer.

Our instructors play an huge part in the experience young people have at Outward Bound. They not only provide outdoor technical and safety assistance, they become role models, demonstrating the attitudes and behaviours that they are aiming to nurture in individuals. Their group watch, absorb and learn from them as they negotiate and manage new situations and build trusting, supportive relationships with those around them.

Building connections and relationships: wellbeing in action

Socially, Outward Bound instructors invest time in finding a connection with each person in their group. In doing so, they help them to feel understood, cared for and reassured. Our talented instructors are intuitively able to recognise when it's the right time to stand back and leave the young people to establish their own positions, connections and relationships in the group.

Our instructors guide young people as they develop new relationships - as they learn to trust others, provide and accept support and develop an awareness of themselves and their peers. They provide support as individuals test newfound mindsets, social behaviours and emotions, all central to an individual’s wellbeing.

Counteracting the effect of the pandemic

Our instructors see the impact the pandemic has had on young people every day. Here's what Simon has noticed with the school groups he's worked with this year:

"Another week working with school residentials at Outward Bound and it’s so clear how much of an impact COVID has had on a child’s emotional and social development. All that time away from school and friends has led to a massive stunt in their development. And it’s so clear how much outdoor education is helping fill that gap and give opportunities that have been missing all through the pandemic. Definitely weeks like this that make me so proud of the career I chose."

Simon, Senior Instructor

The skill of our instructors is in helping prepare young people for future life challenges. By pinpointing the individual challenge required by each young person they help them to learn, grow and develop. By the end of their course each young person has a new perspective on what they are capable of achieving – a perspective that has been shaped through their interactions and relationships with their peers, guided and modelled by their instructor.

Our instructor was really great. We definitely had an unusually bumpy journey as a group. She stayed calm and didn’t stop reminding us of how to improve as team players and how this applied to our lives back home. Any conflict, she guided us to resolve, however she ensured we didn’t develop a reliance upon her for this.
Skills for Life Award participant, 2019
Three ways to improve wellbeing

There are three key ways that Outward Bound courses support wellbeing in young people.

  1. Building connections and relationships with others
  2. Tackling fear of failure and being able to respond to change
  3. Building confidence, capability and purpose

In our report on wellbeing, we look more closely at these three factors and how our courses support young people to feel good and function well. Download it here.

Download our wellbeing report

Our impact report explains how learning and adventure in the wild can improve young people's personal and social wellbeing.

Wellbeing: David's story

The pandemic left David feeling more alone than he ever had, he couldn’t see a way to ask for help and by his own admission, gave up with online learning. He told us “I didn’t really see the point, because it was just never ending, I just felt like I couldn’t deal with it.”