Wales Observatory Report: Young People say Listen to Minister on Mental Health

Children and young people in Wales would prefer to receive support for their well-being and mental health from their friends, school counselling services and teachers, according to a report.

The report, published by the Wales Observatory on Human Rights of Children and Young People and four mental health charities (Hafal, Mental Health Foundation, Bipolar UK and Diverse Cymru) includes results of a consultation involving over 500 people.

When NHS-provided Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) users were asked who they would prefer to receive support from, 56 percent said friends, 44 percent said school, college and university counselling services and 39 percent said teachers.

In November 2014, Health & Social Services Minister Professor Mark Drakeford launched a review of CAMHS after referrals to the service increased over 100 percent from 2010 to 2014. Professor Drakeford has said many referrals to CAMHS referrals are ‘inappropriate’ and turn out not to need specialist CAMHS.

The report makes ten recommendations to improve services, including suggesting strict referral criteria are introduced so that children and young people receive support that is appropriate to their needs.

It says teachers, school, college and university counselling services, and other youth services must play a major role in supporting the well-being and development of all children and young people, including those who have mental health problems.

The report, titled Making Sense, also found that three-quarters of CAMHS users had a negative experience of CAMHS. Although children and young people found CAMHS friendly and approachable, less than half said the service helped them get better and move on.

Mair Elliott, a former CAMHS user who was involved in writing the report, said: "We all go through ups and downs growing up - these are normal and do not require the help of mental health services. Only those children and young people with the highest needs should be supported by specialist CAMHS. We must not medicalise growing up."

Jane Williams, of Swansea University and co-director of the Wales Observatory, said: “We are pleased to have been able to contribute to this research, which was the first such study involving researchers and students at the Observatory at both Bangor and Swansea Universities acting jointly. We were able to hold mixed-disciplinary research meetings in both Swansea and Bangor with Hafal and other community partners.

"It was a real privilege to be able to learn so much from Mair and Jake who express the children and young people’s perspective so powerfully in the report. The Observatory’s legal, human-rights based analysis will help the Welsh Government identify what they need to do to realise the human rights of children and young people in need of help to maintain or recover their mental health. We look forward to continuing to work with Hafal and partners to see this initiative through.”  

View the full report here.