Wilderness and youth at risk: approaches for positive behaviour change through the outdoors
Much has been written about the value of wilderness and wild places in the healing of vulnerable young people, with some key work occurring in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Writers from Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold and Paul Schneider have long written about the unique qualities that wilderness engenders, such as simplicity and neutrality, enabling humans to reevaluate, learn, reflect and self-heal. We live in a complex modern world, where young people from all classes and walks of life can find themselves struggling with identity, belonging, and self-management. In affluent countries, as many as one in ten young people suffer from mental ill-health, with young people in lone parent families and families with lower levels of academic achievement being more likely to suffer from mental ill-health (Chief Medical Officer, 2013; Pretty et al., 2015). In addition, youth crime and anti-social behaviour is a continuing problem. In the UK, 12 per cent of all crime is committed by young people aged 10-17 years, with young men being responsible for more than 80 per cent (Ministry of Justice, 2015). An increasing number of young people are also excluded from school. In 2013-2014 nearly 5000 young people were permanently excluded from school and 269,480 for a fixed period; largely as a result of continued disruptive behaviour (Department for Education, 2015).