More than 60 per cent of children and young people experience difficult emotions or mental health issues at least once a week in Wales.
This is just one of the findings of an inquiry by a committee of Welsh Youth Parliament members looking into emotional and mental health support.
A survey of more than 1,600 people including children, young people, parents, carers and professionals also found a lack of education about the amount of support available for emotional and mental health and a need for better access to counselling in schools and colleges.
“When I travelled around my constituency there were many things that shocked me. One of the things is how many people need mental health support, the second is the lack of support for us, and third, the number of people who do not know that there is support available if we are struggling.” – Ifan Price, Welsh Youth Parliament Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd.
Less than half of children and young people thought the support services available in their places of learning was very good.
Only 20 percent of parents and carers agreed.
“Mental health can affect anyone, and it is absolutely critical that those who need the support and guidance, are given the proper resources and means to do so.” Emily Kaye, Welsh Youth Parliament Member for Llanelli.
The committee was told of lengthy waiting lists for mental health services with more than half of adults surveyed saying a child or young person they had referred for support had to wait up to a year for treatment.
“I think we need to give ALL children information on where to get help whatever the situation. The problem is with the majority of the services that give help and support don’t give it until you’ve reached breaking point, this needs to change!” –16-year-old non-binary young person from Caerphilly.
Members also learned of a lack of education or available information about mental health and the services available, as well as a need to end the stigma and normalise the issue so more children and young people could feel confident talking about their feelings.
“It depends on the service/people they have in their lives…young people will open up to people they feel comfortable with and trust to do so.” – Youth Worker from Wrexham.
“Having someone else show concern before you raise it yourself can be a huge motivating factor in seeking help. It may be useful to develop a way to make people aware of the signs of struggle, so this is possible.” – 17-year-old girl from Anglesey.
The committee concluded that not enough was being done to make children and young people aware of the support services available to them and that much more information and education should be put in place, including from a much earlier age.
It sees the new curriculum in Wales, set to be rolled out from 2022 as an opportunity to incorporate mental health into the classroom. Linked to this, the committee believes schools should increase the amount of time that counsellors are available to support young people.
On the issue of CAMHS, members concluded, urgent action is needed to reduce waiting times. Better promotion of alternative services for those who haven’t yet reached crisis point would enable young people to use coping techniques which could, in turn, reduce the strain on CAMHS.
The full report will be sent to the Welsh Government to respond to.
Youth Parliament’s Three Key Priorities
The report is the second of three key priorities decided on by the Welsh Youth Parliament when it first met in February last year. Those priorities were:
- Teaching of life skills in the national curriculum
- Emotional and Mental Health and Wellbeing
- Littering and Plastic waste (to be published in November 2020)
Senedd Committee Report on Mental Health
The Emotional and Mental Health report is published ahead of World Mental Health Day (10 October), and coincides with another report from the Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee.
Mind over Matter is a follow-up to a 2018 inquiry into children’s mental health services in Wales. It highlights the need for swift progress by the Welsh Government to manage the impact the Coronavirus pandemic is having on children’s mental health as they experience long periods without school, clubs, family and friends.