Young People Feeling the Strain as Pressure Mounts; Exam Stress, Financial Worries and the Growth of Social Media Are All Affecting the Mental Health of Young People in Wales. Here, Dr Mair Parry of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), Explains What Needs to Be Done to Tackle the Problem

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), July 11, 2018 | Go to article overview

Young People Feeling the Strain as Pressure Mounts; Exam Stress, Financial Worries and the Growth of Social Media Are All Affecting the Mental Health of Young People in Wales. Here, Dr Mair Parry of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), Explains What Needs to Be Done to Tackle the Problem


Every child grows up thinking life is hard - but in recent years pressure on young people has grown to unprecedented levels. There's the pressure of social media and exam stress from National Tests right through to GCSE and A-levels.

There's pressure to attend university - most leaving with debt equating to a small mortgage - and the jobs anticipated upon graduating are often hard to come by.

It's also difficult for young people to get on the property ladder, or earn enough money to privately rent, meaning they rely on their families much longer.

Welsh teenagers have among the poorest life satisfaction rates across the UK, and our own research shows mental health is an area of major concern for children and young people.

With the difficulties this generation faces, it's no wonder they are feeling the strain. Issues around self-esteem and self-confidence and lack of support in both primary and secondary schools are a particular worry.

EQUIPPING CHILDREN TO COPE WITH MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES It was recently reported that Ysgol Pen y Bryn in Colwyn Bay, in Conwy, introduced mindfulness - a form of meditation - as a way of helping pupils look after their own stress levels and mental health at school, citing clear benefits for pupils.

This is a great example of local innovation, and, at a time when school budgets are stretched, provides an example of what can be done to support good mental health.

But for those schools without mechanisms like these, worries remain.

Welsh Government can help address these concerns by taking immediate steps to embed statutory and comprehensive personal, social and health education programmes (including sex and relationships education) across all primary and secondary schools - something young people have told us they want.

These programmes must foster social and emotional health and wellbeing, through building resilience, and, specifically, tackling issues around social inclusion, bullying, drug and alcohol use and mental health.

They will undoubtedly better equip children to cope with mental health challenges in their teen and adult years.

PREVENTION MUCH EASIER THAN CURE It isn't just young people who are worried about their mental health - children's doctors like me are concerned about the mental health of children and young people, too.

We know there is a huge burden on health services in Wales, with long waiting times for child and adolescent mental health (CAMHS) appointments and reports right across the UK of children's units unable to cope with patient demand.

It's worrying for families when they need a service but can't access it. Services need more money, but at a time when money is tight, we need to think of other ways to alleviate the pressure. One example is through prevention.

Half of adult mental health problems start before the age of 14, and 75% start before the age of 24.

Early identification and early intervention are essential in ensuring that young people can achieve their potential.

Without it, these children are at future risk of alcohol and drug misuse, self-harm, neglect and, in extreme cases, at risk of suicide.

That's why we'd like to see professional bodies representing all those working with children in health, social care, education, criminal justice, and community settings equip their members with the necessary tools to identify mental health issues so they can act early. …

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Young People Feeling the Strain as Pressure Mounts; Exam Stress, Financial Worries and the Growth of Social Media Are All Affecting the Mental Health of Young People in Wales. Here, Dr Mair Parry of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), Explains What Needs to Be Done to Tackle the Problem
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