Samaritans Cymru welcome assembly recommendations to improve mental health of young people

A new report released by an Assembly Committee on support for Children and Young People’s mental health today, has been welcomed by Samaritans Cymru who gave evidence to the Inquiry.

The Inquiry, which was launched by the Children, Young People and Education Committee, focused on improving the emotional and mental health of children and young people in Wales. Samaritans Cymru provided the committee with evidence during the Inquiry, in order to discuss their ongoing calls for compulsory emotional health lessons in schools and the wider benefits of improving resilience in young people.

Within their evidence, Samaritans also highlighted that young people are a high-risk group for mental illness and suicide, and in Wales, we are witnessing a significant rise in factors such as self harm and admissions to A&E which can contribute to suicidal ideation or intent in adolescents.

Samaritans have developed a free teaching resource called DEAL (Developing Emotional Awareness and Listening) which aims to help develop resilience in young people. In 2016/17, Samaritans in Wales worked with five pilot schools in Cardiff to implement the resource into their curriculum for one academic year.

Following the DEAL pilot, in which Cardiff schools delivered Samaritans lesson plans for one academic year, teacher Laura-Cerys Williams, of Fitzalan High School, said:

"Pupils enjoyed the sessions due to their interactivity and staff found the sessions very easy to deliver.

"Following the pilot, the students have a better awareness of mental health. We are planning on continuing to use some of the resources in our year seven, eight and nine lessons."

Among the recommendations of the report, the Committee have recommended that Welsh Government undertake a review of the various emotional and mental health programmes in schools, in order to put forward a national approach for schools to adopt. While undertaking this review, the Committee has recommended that Welsh Government work with Samaritans to develop its Delivering Emotional Awareness and Listening (DEAL) Programme for wider use in schools in Wales.

Sarah Stone, Executive Director for Samaritans in Wales said –

“We are pleased to welcome the recommendations of this report and are encouraged to see the call for a review of current emotional health provision in order to recommend a national approach for all schools. It’s vital we work together in Wales in order to improve outcomes for children and young people.

We are particularly encouraged to see recognition of our own DEAL resource and look forward to extending its reach to other schools in Wales. Emotional health programmes in schools should be viewed as a form of prevention and early intervention which could reduce pressure on CAMHS and reduce specific mental health problems”

Significantly, the committee has also recommended that Welsh Government issue guidance to schools on talking about suicide and self-harm, to dispel the myth that talking about it may increase the risk. They’ve also called on Welsh Government to ensure that basic mental health training, including how to talk about suicide, becomes part of initial teacher training and continuous professional development, so that all teachers are more confident to talk about it.

Sarah Stone said -

“The call for basic mental health training in Initial Teaching Training is of crucial importance; we must continue to highlight that talking about self harm and suicide does not increase the risk – it reduces it.  Talking about mental health and reducing stigma, is one of the most significant barriers we must overcome in order to improve emotional health in young people”

ENDS

For further information, or to request an interview, please contact Emma Harris, Policy and Communications Officer on e.harris@samaritans.org or 07984579050 / 029 2022 2008

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