To mark the beginning of Children’s Mental Health Week (4th February – 10th February), the Welsh Liberal Democrats are recommitting to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Wales’ children and young people.
Children’s Mental Health Week was launched in 2014 and is now in its fifth year. The week shines a spotlight on the importance of this issue.
One of the conditions of the ‘Progressive Agreement’, signed by Kirsty Williams AM and the First Minister of Wales, was that ‘mental health discrimination is ended’. With a Minister for Education we are now particularly well placed to work towards that goal for Wales’ children and young people.
Just last month, Kirsty Williams AM jointly announced an investment of over £7million to promote children and young people’s mental health. One of the key objectives of the investment is to support the whole-school approach to improve mental health. Kirsty co-chairs a task and finish group which oversees its implementation.
The Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Minister has also announced an in-reach initiative giving schools better access to specialist emotional and mental health support. Dedicated child and adolescent mental health services practitioners are providing teachers with on-site help and advice, supporting pupils with issues such as anxiety, low mood and compulsive self-harm. The pilot aims to increase support at an earlier stage in life in order to prevent more serious problems developing later.
The new curriculum being taken forward by Kirsty Williams also has a strong emphasis on mental health and wellbeing. One of its six ‘areas of learning and experience’ is ‘health and wellbeing’, encompassing mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. The curriculum aims to help create healthy, confident individuals and pupils will learn about influences that can affect them, including mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
The theme of this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week focuses on the importance of the connection between bodies and minds, recognising that things helping physical wellbeing can also help mental wellbeing. In 2017 the ‘Daily Mile’ was launched in Wales, a schools-based initiative encouraging primary schoolchildren to run, jog or walk a mile a day. Physical activity is also being embedded into the new curriculum.
Jane Dodds, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, commented:
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats have worked tirelessly to raise the importance of mental health on the political agenda. Improving people’s mental health has been a long-term priority that we took into the Welsh Government.
“Supporting the whole-school approach to mental health, developing an in-reach pilot to support schools and taking forward the new curriculum are some of the ways we’re promoting the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. Children’s Mental Health Week is an important opportunity to recommit to continuing this work.”
Kirsty Williams, Welsh Liberal Democrat Education Minister, said:
“Our education system has a vital role to play in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our children and young people. As Education Minister this has been – and will continue to be – an absolute priority of mine.”