Report reveals devastating impact of pandemic on mental health of young people in Wales

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The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact upon the emotional and mental health of young people in Wales, according to a Senedd committee.

Members of the Children, Young People and Education Committee are calling on the Welsh Government to do much more to help children and young people.

They said that, while there has been some progress in schools' approaches to emotional and mental health, changes to improve the situation across all public services, including in the NHS and local government, are not happening quickly enough.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic makes these changes more necessary now than ever before, they said.

The report, Mind Over Matter: Two Years On, follows on from the committee's original report in 2018, Mind Over Matter.

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The new report finds children and young people in Wales are still struggling to find the emotional and mental health support they need, both at an early stage to help prevent problems developing and later, when things have deteriorated and specialist care is needed.

Lynne Neagle MS, chairwoman of the Children, Young People and Education Committee, said: "In 2018 our Mind Over Matter report made it clear that we expected to see significant and sustainable change in the support available for the emotional and mental health of children and young people by May 2021.

"While we recognise the pressures placed on the Welsh Government and public services by the coronavirus pandemic, we think the collateral damage caused to our children and young people by this public health emergency means a strong focus on the emotional and mental health of children is more essential than ever.

"Between now and next May's election, we will continue to push for change and to hold the Welsh Government to account for its actions in this vital area.

"Our original report said we were not willing to allow this issue to be passed on yet again to a future committee with repeated conclusions of 'more work to be done'.

"We intend to keep our promise to the people of Wales and do everything we can to ensure that the Welsh Government puts our recommendations into practice."

Meanwhile, a committee of Welsh Youth Parliament members has found that more than 60% of children and young people experience difficult emotions or mental health issues at least once a week in Wales.

A survey of more than 1,600 people 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.

Less than half of children and young people thought the support services available at their school, college or university was very good.