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Mind Cymru focuses new campaign on young people’s mental health

13 May 2024 5 minute read
The charity is urging young people to reach out if they need support.

Mind Cymru has launched a new drive to highlight the increasing mental health needs of young people in Wales, to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.

Figures show a marked increase in the prevalence of “anxiety” as a presenting issue for counselling in Welsh secondary schools – from 12% in 2015/2016 to 46% in 2022/23.

Monday (May 13) marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week.


The charity is encouraging young people to reach out for support and is calling for Welsh Government to ensure young people are prioritised in its new mental health strategy for Wales.

The awareness drive is being supported by Dragons RFC player Ashton Hewitt who is passionate about young people’s mental health after having experienced his own mental health challenges relating to online racism.

He said: “I went through a dark experience a few years back after I spoke out against racism in sport, and was relentlessly trolled and abused online as a result. What I experienced really shocked me – especially as a young person who, to that point, hadn’t really engaged with social media.

“The targeted racism by anonymous online trolls really affected me and initially I wasn’t sure how to deal with it and I felt totally unprepared. Eventually, I sought help from family and friends and I think that’s so important for young people – speaking out and seeking support from a trusted advocate.

“The issues facing young people these days are totally magnified with the prevalence of the online world, so I’m passionate now about using my platform to educate against discrimination, but also to encourage others to reach out when they need help.”

It comes as the Welsh Government reaches the final few weeks of consulting on its new draft strategy for mental health for Wales.

Mind Cymru is calling for the strategy to place a sufficient and specific focus on the needs of children and young people.

This includes ensuring there is resource and capacity available to provide early support – whether through a whole school approach to mental health or via primary care services.

‘Family issues’

Figures also show “persistent absence” figures have doubled from 2018/2019 to 2023/24 in Welsh secondary schools.

“Anxiety” and “family issues” were the most common type of issue for children and young people who received counselling – with anxiety the most common presenting issue for both females (50%) and males (38%) in 2022/23.

The figures also show the value of early intervention services with 89% of children and young people not requiring onward referral after completion of counselling sessions.

Chloe Hayden, aged 22, from Cardiff, is a young person’s mental health advocate who experienced poor mental health as a teenager.

She’s now training to be a counsellor.

She said: “I had a tough time at school and was a victim of bullying and directed violence, and also had challenges in my home life as a young carer. My bullying was particularly bad during my GCSE years and resulted in major non-attendance at school.

“At my lowest point, I was attending school just once or twice per week, which had a huge impact on my confidence and performance. Unfortunately, because I didn’t feel very well supported, I developed a mentality of not trusting anyone.

“I feel really passionate about supporting young people’s mental health, in school settings in particular. I feel strongly that negative issues with young people could be nipped in the bud, so that so many young adults don’t end up burning out when adulthood pressures begin to seep into their lives.

“It is my hope that I can use my voice to encourage another young person to speak out if they’re struggling. If educators are effectively supported and properly trained to identify mental health challenges. No one should feel misunderstood or alone; just one trusted advocate can make a huge difference to a young person’s journey.”

Mind Cymru director for Wales, Sue O’Leary, said: “We know that as many as one in five young people experiences a mental health problem, and that’s why this Mental Health Awareness Week we’re encouraging them to seek support.

“The problems facing young people across the world are well documented; the fallout from the pandemic, cost-of-living crisis, wider world affairs and general societal pressures have sent levels of stress and anxiety soaring.

“Parents are also feeling the pressure, with recent figures released by Public Health Wales showing that 32% parents of under 18s state they “rarely” feel relaxed.

“Our message is that support is out there. Across Wales, there are pockets of brilliance in terms of provision for children and young people, but this must become commonplace.

“Many of our local Minds across the country offer ‘sanctuary’ or ‘drop-in’ services for young people, and support is also available through Mind’s Infoline, our online community ‘Side by Side’*, and the many bilingual, youth-specific resources on our website.

“The current consultation on the Welsh Government’s mental health strategy provides the ideal opportunity for a comprehensive plan to address the growing needs of our children and young people.

“While some progress has been made, we know that some are still waiting too long or simply not receiving the support they need.”

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