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Mental health approach that is ‘letting down a generation’ needs to change

Responding to the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s report on improving mental health services, Prof Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales said:

“Simply, mental health care provision is not working for all children and young people in Wales. Services are delivered too rigidly, with many young people who need support missing out on the care they need because they don’t meet certain criteria. The Report highlights the lack of support for many of the ‘missing middle’ of children and young people at the earlier stages of mental ill health.

“What we need is a fundamental shift in how we deliver mental health care. I’ve been clear that services across Wales should be working together to provide comprehensive, flexible care that delivers for all children and young people, wherever they are on their own mental health journey. I am so very pleased that this has been acknowledged by the Committee. Children and young people need to be able to access consistent support throughout their childhood; not only when they are ill enough to qualify for a diagnosis.

“I’ve also called for a greater push towards developing schools that are sites of excellence for mental health and wellbeing support, and training more people who work directly with young people to be able to offer good advice and support to all children who need it, and I’m pleased to see this reflected in the committee’s report. This work needs to involve all relevant services, pooling and therefore maximising capacity.

“We also need learning about good mental health, resilience, and healthy relationships to play a significant part in the new curriculum. We are in the midst of reforming our education system, and our children and adolescent mental health system. The current window of opportunity to bring elements of each of these together and develop a comprehensive response to children’s emotional and mental health needs must not be missed.

“Welsh Government Ministers are the gatekeepers of change here. We must move away from isolating mental health as an issue for the NHS, or schools, or local authorities – this approach is not working and unless the Government acknowledges this, then we are at real risk of letting down a generation that are desperately in need of support.”