A young woman from Denbighshire has challenged policy makers in Wales to do more to help young people with mental health Issues.
Naomi Lea, from Henllan near Denbigh, was speaking at the National Assembly’s Cross Party Group on Children, Young People and Education committee. The meeting saw the launch of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s State of Child Health Report 2017 and also saw her hard-hitting video called Spot the Signs – Adnabod yr Arwyddion (watch the video below).
Speaking at the launch Naomi Lea said: “When I was a pupil I suffered from severe panic attacks, which meant I couldn’t stay in lessons. I was alone and felt that there was nobody that I could turn to. It’s important that people know how to recognise when someone they know is struggling with a mental health issue. If they can spot the signs and offer someone support, it could make a real difference.”
Naomi has since produced a film and workshops to help raise awareness about mental health problems facing young people and is now studying psychology at Cardiff University.
Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Education, Children, Skills and Lifelong Learning attended the launch and said: “I have championed the need to improve mental health services for many years, and Naomi’s contribution shows clearly there is still a long way to go to improve mental health services and awareness for young people.
“I welcome the fact that the RCPCH’s report identifies the need to improve support and services for young people with mental health problems. It features as one of the dozen issues in the recommendations for Wales and I fully support the recommendation that the Department for Education and Skills should ensure that all schools make mental health support available to their pupils.”
Mr Gruffydd added: “Critically, the report also identifies poverty as a key driving issue behind many, if not most, of the health problems facing children and young people. If we are serious about improving children’s health and well-being then we need to tackle the root cause, which in many cases is related to poverty.”
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales has stated that infants, children and young people living in the most deprived areas of Wales have not benefited as greatly from the improvements in health of the last two decades, compared to those living in the least deprived areas. An estimated 200,000 Welsh children live in poverty and are more likely to experience negative health outcomes.
North Wales continues to have some of the highest levels of child poverty anywhere in the UK, with nearly 55% of children in Rhyl West, the highest in the whole of Wales, living in poverty after taking housing costs into consideration. Others include
- 50% in Queensway, Wrexham;
- 44% in Shotton Higher, Flintshire;
- 41% in the Marchog Ward, Bangor;
- 38% in Towyn, Abergele
- 37% in Ynys Gybi, Holyhead.
Dr Mair Parry, RCPCH Officer of Wales, who is based at Ysbyty Gwynedd, said: “The UK’s child health outcomes lag behind the rest of Western Europe. We face particular challenges in Wales, with worrying figures on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, over a quarter of children overweight or obese and strong and ongoing associations between socio-economic inequalities and poor health outcomes, most devastatingly in terms of child deaths.
“The Welsh Government’s commitment to tackling inequality is welcome but recent news that the target of ending child poverty in Wales by 2020 cannot be met should worry us all.
“We must show real leadership to prevent illness from the very start of life and promote good health and well-being across the whole of society. If we don’t, we will fail a whole generation in Wales.”