Trail Life USA provides structured outdoor adventure to combat rise in boys’ mental health issues

Trail Life CEO Mark Hancock to be a feature speaker in Promise Keepers’ 21-day mental health challenge

October 24, 2022

GREENVILLE, S.C. The mental health of America’s youth is in a downward spiral. A recent CDC study found significant increases in high school students reporting persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or suicidal thoughts over the past decade.

Boys are at an even higher risk for mental health issues in today’s “girl-centric” culture. According to one study, “Boys are twice as likely to fall behind girls in early years of education… The male brain is wired to respond in external, rather than internal, ways. This can leave boys at a disadvantage in a school environment, when teaching focuses on the sedentary development of verbal skills at the expense of active learning. As early as kindergarten, kinetic, impulsive boys are told to sit down, be quiet, and do their work. Teachers are expected to provide a calm, controlled classroom, but boys tend to learn by doing.” How are boys supposed to respond when society deems their natural enthusiasm is unacceptable? Many find themselves sad, discouraged, angry, or depressed.

Mark Hancock, CEO of Trail Life USA (TrailLifeUSA.com), the largest Christ-centered, boy-focused scout-type organization in the country, believes boys are being hit the hardest in today’s mental health decline. Hancock holds two Masters Degrees in the Mental Health Counseling field and spent a number of years in private practice and in teaching at both secular and Christian colleges.

“When boys feel like they are relegated as ‘less than’ due to unrecognized gender differences, they begin to wonder where they belong in a society that seems to not appreciate their abilities,” Hancock stated. “It should be no surprise that depression and drug-related deaths are at an all-time high, particularly among boys. 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.”

Hancock believes that the way to address the mental health of boys is to let them be boys. In the fight to provide boys with unique programming that celebrates boyhood, Trail Life utilizes outdoor adventure and personal relationships to speak to the heart of a boy and to guide him in his walk with Christ. “Trail Life USA provides a boy-focused program and activities designed to let boys be boys, accentuating their strengths and allowing them to feel understood and appreciated,” Hancock explained.

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.”

Hancock will be a featured speaker on the importance of addressing the mental health of boys at Promise Keeper’s upcoming mental health summit, “Carried.” A 21-day mental health challenge designed to reach out to men who might otherwise never consider getting mental illness help, the “Carried” summit will answer some of the most common questions men have about mental health and how to address their own mental health struggles. The free summit will kick off on Tuesday, October 25, at 8pm ET.

Trail Life’s unique approach is garnering attention from families across the nation. Trail Life has grown by nearly 20,000 new Troop members in 2022 alone. In just the last month, nearly 500 individuals have reached out for information on starting a Trail Life Troop, and more than 30 new Troops have been chartered in the past 30 days. With Trail Life’s success in growing to over 45,000 members in under ten years, boys and men are building meaningful relationships, growing in character, developing in leadership, and just having fun in the great outdoors.

Trail Life USA has received praise from some of the top Christian voices today, including Focus on the Family, Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Mike Huckabee, Alex and Stephen Kendrick, Family Life, Promise Keepers, the American Family Association, and many others. 

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 TrailLifeUSA.com.  

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.    

Discover more about Trail Life USA atTrailLifeUSA.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or Vimeo.