The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on the mental health and emotional well-being of children and young people, according to academics.
They were giving evidence to a Senedd committee which found that many children and young people have experienced stress, anxiety and loneliness.
Data on mental health problems in children and young people in Wales is limited. Commonly reported UK statistics include:
- An estimated three children and young people in every classroom (or one in eight overall) has a diagnosable mental health condition; and
- half of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14, with 75% showing by the age of 24.
The statistics show a consistent increase in the incidence of mental health issues, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. So why are governments across the UK still failing some children, young people and their families when it comes to mental ill health? Part of the answer is that as a society we’re still mostly reacting rather than preventing.
There’s clear ambition within Welsh Government to focus on prevention
The Welsh Government doesn’t lack ambition when it comes to prevention.
The new Curriculum for Wales, which primary schools will be required to implement from September 2022, features health and well-being as one of the key areas of learning. Well-being is also woven through the other curriculum areas.
The Welsh Government introduced new statutory guidance in 2021, requiring all schools to embed a whole school approach towards mental health and emotional wellbeing in everyday practice. Schools and colleges can decide what mental health support they want to fund and provide themselves.
In a whole-school approach, wellbeing and mental health are everyone’s business
The whole-school approach has been championed for a number of years. The Fifth Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee published its influential Mind over Matter report in 2018 - and its follow up Mind over Matter: Two years on.
Both reports emphasised the importance of prevention when it comes to mental health issues in children and young people.
The Together for Children and Young People Programme has been responsible for driving change
In 2015, the Welsh Government set up Together for Children and Young People (T4CYP), a multi-agency programme designed to improve mental health services for children. The programme was extended until March 2022 with three Programme priorities:
- Early help and enhanced support - NYTH NEST Framework;
- working with Regional Partnership Boards (RPBs); and
- neurodevelopmental services.
Despite the T4CYPP ending on 31 March 2022, further legacy work is continuing until September.