Health Minister: “There’s so much pressure on young people nowadays.”

The following is a news item from Hafal’s Big Lottery-funded Young People’s Information Hub. To access the Hub please visit:

Health and Social Services Minister Lesley Griffiths AM has spoken exclusively to John Gilheaney from Hafal’s Young People’s Information Hub about a range of issues relating to young people and serious mental illness.

Ms Griffiths, who was appointed Health Minister in May, spoke on topics including the importance of early intervention, services such as Meic and Flying Start, overcoming stigma and her understanding of the pressures facing young people.

Here’s what she said…

JOHN GILHEANEY: At a recent conference in Cardiff on “Minimising self-harm – preventing suicide” Dr David Williams, CAMHS Adviser to the Welsh Government, said: “25% of females and 40% of male school-age children have considered suicide in the last year. That equates to approximately 180,000 young people in Wales. 75% have gone as far as thinking about a plan, that’s about 120,000. If my specialist service were to deal with that we’d need another 3,000 CAMHS professionals to take that as a caseload.” What do you think of Mr Williams’ comments?

LESLEY GRIFFITHS: They gave a lot of food for thought. I think the message has to be that suicide prevention is not the sole preserve of specialist NHS services; professionals have to work together right across primary care and education as well as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

We’ve introduced really good schemes to help young people. For example ‘Meic’ is an excellent advice helpline for children and young people up to the age of 25. It’s easy to use and very young-people friendly; they can SMS, visit the website or e-mail. Schemes such as Meic, which are designed to support and listen to children and young people, are excellent because they put young people in touch with different organisations.

There have been significant improvements in CAMHS services over the past three years. Before I was elected I worked for Ian Lucas, the Wrexham MP, and I remember that young people’s services weren’t as good as we would have wanted. We’ve invested in young people’s mental health services and we need to keep on doing so, for example in issues such as eating disorders, because conditions like these can lead on to other mental health issues.

Within the Deputy Minister’s portfolio we also have schemes such as Flying Start and Families First; we’ve got the new integrated family support services which are being rolled out, too. I think schemes like these, which work with families and young children, will help children grow up and grow into adulthood.

JOHN GILHEANEY: Do you think that ultimately a focus on youth is the key to improving mental health services because of a) the importance of early intervention and b) tackling stigma? Do you think young people are the people we really need to target?

LESLEY GRIFFITHS: Absolutely. When I began working in the health service just over thirty years ago there was a certain stigma attached to mental health illness which I think has been broken down. If we can educate our young people who tend to be a bit crueller when they’re faced with someone a little bit different, that will really help.

It’s also very important for our young people to know that if they’re having mental health issues they’re not alone. It’s a really tough time; it was certainly tough when I was a teenager. I’ve got one child who will soon be eighteen and a 21-year-old, too, and I know from them and their friends of the difficulties they’re facing; there’s so much more pressure on young people nowadays which leads to anxiety, so the more we can educate young people the better.

The full interview, which will cover topics including the Mental Health (Wales) Measure, ring-fencing and Care and Treatment Plans, will appear in the next edition of the Mental Health Wales journal which is out in October.