Understanding the mental health landscape in Wales
Facts and figures about the mental health of children in Wales.
Information and data on mental health and wellbeing in Wales is currently very limited. The National Health Survey for Wales asks adults to report if they have a mental disorder (of which 9% in 2018/19 said they did), but this may not capture the numbers of people with less acute mental health issues.
In 2012, the Welsh government published their ‘Together for Mental Health’ strategy, a 10-year plan for improving mental health and wellbeing in Wales. As a result, around £600m is now invested in mental health services each year, more than any other service in the NHS.
Children’s mental health in Wales
Whilst there is limited data on the prevalence of mental health problems in children in Wales, UK wide, it’s estimated that three children in every classroom (or 1 in 10 children overall) has a diagnosable mental health condition.
Mental health is the issue most commonly raised with the Children’s Commissioner for Wales by children, young people, their parents and carers. Mental health was also highlighted as a key priority for the Children Young People and Education Committee when they consulted on their work programme shortly after the last election in Wales in May 2016.
A survey conducted by Welsh primary school health network, HAPPEN, showed that 2 out of 10 children aged 8 to 11 reported a life satisfaction score lower than 7 out of 10. 3 in 10 school children displayed either borderline or clinical emotional or behavioural difficulties, or both, according to the Me and My Feelings Questionnaire.
In 2015, the Welsh government set up Together for Children and Young People, a multi-agency programme designed to improve mental health services for children. A report by the Children, Young People and Education Committee in 2018 suggested a number of changes to the programme, which has now been extended until 2022, in line with the country’s mental health strategy, Together for Mental Health.
What affects the mental health of children in Wales?
There are many different causes of poor mental health in children. These reasons can be complex – there may not be one specific cause of poor mental health, but a combination of contributory factors. You can find out more about risks to children’s mental health in the risks and protective factors section of this website.
Some causes, specific to Wales, may be:
- Economic inequality: According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Wales has the highest levels of poverty out of the four UK countries. They estimate that around 30% of children in Wales live in relative poverty. Research has shown that children living in low income households are more likely to suffer mental health problems.
- Rural life: Around 1 in 3 people in Wales live in an area classed as rural (compared to 1 in 5 in England). There are significant difficulties with accessing mental health services in rural Wales, as well as concerns around deprivation and isolation potentially making mental health issues worse.
- Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs): Research has found that for every 100 adults in Wales, 47 suffered at least one ACE during their childhood and 14 suffered four or more. Experiencing ACEs can have a long-term negative impact on mental health and wellbeing.
Mental health and school
One of the recommendations made by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales was for the government to encourage a whole-school approach to mental health.
As a result, the government recently doubled the amount of funding available to local authorities to help them implement a whole-school approach to mental health in schools. The government is also currently at the consultation stage of creating statutory guidance for schools on a whole-school approach to mental health.
Health and wellbeing is a core Area of Learning and Experience (AoLE) within the new Welsh curriculum, which primary schools will be required to implement from September 2022. Find out more about mental health on the Welsh curriculum.