Trail Life USA offers boys hope and purpose — despite pandemic aftereffects

‘Our mishandling of the opportunity to communicate optimism and to be creative in meeting the challenge is causing these aftershocks that have particularly set boys back’

June 14, 2022

GREENVILLE, S.C.— As COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift, many parents and teachers are seeing the lasting impact the pandemic has had on America’s youth. A recent report highlighted the drastic rise in emergency room admissions citing “mental health distress” shortly after the pandemic began in 2020. One expert even claimed that the “alarming increase in suicidal ideation, as well as signs of cutting and eating disorders from children and adolescents,” should encourage the country to create “a safe way to reopen schools” to halt this concerning trend.

Mark Hancock, CEO of Trail Life USA (, recently responded to this concerning trend in mental health for youth. As the largest Christ-centered, boy-focused scout-type organization in the country, Trail Life provides boys with a safe space to build character, develop leadership, and enjoy boyhood — all while growing closer to Christ.

Hancock stated, “Although tragic beyond comprehension, it should come as no surprise to us. Depression and drug-related deaths are at an all-time high. Depression now affects nearly 33% of Americans (a 285% increase from 2019) and drug-related deaths increased by 30% over last year. Like canaries in the coal mine that suffer first, men and boys are being hit particularly hard. Men account for 4 out of 5 suicides in America and double the drug-related deaths. The most rapidly growing suicide rate demographic is boys from the ages of 10-14.

“So many leaders missed the opportunity to model courage and resolve to young people in the face of difficulty, choosing to instill fear and panic instead. Surely there is great loss during a global pandemic, but I would argue that our mishandling of the opportunity to communicate optimism and to be creative in meeting the challenge is causing these aftershocks that have particularly set boys back. That’s why in Trail Life, we continued to meet in the outdoors in safe and creative ways. We knew the ‘cure’ could be worse than the disease and we made sure boys could continue to find purpose in times of difficulty.”

Hancock continued, “Trail Life USA aims to restore the wonder and winning elements of boyhood so boys can have a sure and secure future. We guide them with vetted male mentors. We ground them in biblical truths. We appreciate their strengths. And we inspire them with outdoor adventure, character, and leadership challenges. This is how we turn back this awful and deadly tide.”

Trail Life USA is the premier national character development organization for young men, producing godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens. Trail Life’s mission is to guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others, and experience outdoor adventure. Troops exist in all 50 states and are growing as Trail Life USA expands around the country. Find a Troop today, or Start a Troop in your community. Find out more at  

Trail Life USA’s K-12 program centers on outdoor experiences that build a young man’s skills. A robust awards program motivates young men to grow on a personal level to become role models and leaders among their peers. Living the Trail Life USA is a journey established on timeless values derived from the Bible.    

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