07 February 2019
The 7th February 2019 is ‘Time to Talk Day’, a UK wide initiative, run in Wales by Time to Change Wales. The aim: to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. Set up in 2012, Time to Change Wales is run by the mental health charities Mind Cymru and Hafal, and funded, in part, by the Welsh Government.
On Time to Talk Day, campaigners encourage everyone in Wales to start a conversation about mental health.
According to Mind Cymru:
‘By talking about mental health we can:
- strengthen relationships with friends, family and colleagues
- take the taboo out of something that affects everyone
- break down stereotypes and challenge stigma
- support people in their recovery’
Campaign resources can be accessed in Welsh or English.
NB: The week of 4 – 10 February 2019 is also Children’s Mental Health Week.
What’s happening in Wales?
The Welsh Government has an overarching 10 year Mental health strategy, Together for Mental health: A strategy for Mental Health and Wellbeing in Wales. The then Health and Social Services Minister states in the strategy:
A quarter of us will experience mental health problems or illness at some point, having an enormous effect on those around us. Worse still, sufferers often face discrimination and stigma.
Recently there have been a number of Assembly Committee inquiries focused around mental health.
Children’s Mental Health
The Children Young People and Education Committee (CYPE) published its inquiry report ‘Mind over Matter’, into children and young people’s emotional and mental health in Wales in April 2018. The key recommendation was:
that the Welsh Government makes the emotional and mental well-being and resilience of our children and young people a stated national priority.
Read our blog post to find out more about the report.
The Committee were not satisfied that the Welsh Government’s initial response met the Committee’s report recommendations. During the plenary debate on the 4th July, the Chair of the Committee Lynne Neagle AM said:
I and the committee are deeply disappointed with the Welsh Government’s response to our recommendations. Firstly, too many vital points have been rejected. Secondly, while many recommendations are accepted in principle, this is largely on the basis that the Welsh Government perceives that the things we have called for are already in place. Well, I say to the Welsh Government today: we do not agree with you. We do not believe sufficient attention has been given to the robust and comprehensive evidence that we have presented in our report.
The Cabinet Secretaries for Health and Social Services and Education subsequently announced their intention to form a ‘Ministerial Task and Finish Group’ and a ‘Stakeholder Reference group’, in response to the Committee’s and Assembly Members’ concerns.
On 14th January 2019 the Health and Social Services Minister announced £7.1 million, to support the Government in its work following recommendations made by the Committee. He said,
The extra funding I’m announcing today is a significant and meaningful investment to help us do more to protect, improve and support the mental health and wellbeing of our children and young people by further developing these services.
Loneliness and Isolation
In December 2017 the Health, Social Care and Sport (HSCS) Committee completed an inquiry into loneliness and isolation. The Committee report made 6 recommendations for the Welsh Government, including ‘that the Welsh Government review the timescales for the development of its strategy to address loneliness and isolation, with a view to publication before 2019’, and that it takes a cross departmental approach to maximise the contribution of all policy areas. Read more about this report in our blog post.
The Welsh Government response was to accept four of the recommendations (including a cross departmental approach) and partially accept the remaining two (including reviewing timescales).
During the subsequent debate the then Minister for Children and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davis AM said, that while the Government are not moving forward the date of the strategy due to the need for more research, it didn’t meant they couldn’t act now. He said:
We are doing things now and we should escalate them. We should accelerate them. So, we get on with acting right now. It doesn’t have to wait for a strategy in 2019.
The final recommendation of the report was for a campaign to highlight the issue of isolation and loneliness using a wide range of communication methods. The Committee Chair called for a campaign similar to Time to Change Wales, ‘to change public attitudes towards loneliness and isolation’.
The Welsh Government since published its consultation on ‘Connected communities – Tackling loneliness and social isolation’ and is currently reviewing consolation responses.
The link between loneliness and isolation and increased risk of suicide was highlighted in the debate on the loneliness and isolation report. Evidence provided to the HSCS Committee highlighted the prevalence of suicide in Wales, and prompted the committee to begin an inquiry specifically into suicide prevention in Wales.
According to the Samaritans in their December 2018 Suicide statistics report, (PDF 6,418KB) there were 360 suicides in Wales in 2017, an 11.9% increase since 2016.
The Welsh Government currently has a ‘Suicide and self-harm prevention strategy for Wales 2015 – 2020, Talk to me 2’, read our blog post for more information.
The committee heard evidence from a wide range of organisations before compiling their report, which was published in December 2018 and made 32 recommendations to the Welsh Government.
The Committee Chair, Dai Lloyd AM said in his foreword to the report:
Suicide is everybody’s business, that’s the key message we’ve heard; that’s the message we all need to remember and share. Suicide can affect anybody, there isn’t a community in Wales where people haven’t been touched by suicide’.
‘Many people feel unable to talk about their mental health, mainly due to the stigma that still surrounds admitting they have a problem. We need to overcome this issue so that everyone feels comfortable to seek the help they need without fear of being judged.
The Welsh Government has recently published its response (PDF 578KB) to the Committee report.
Perinatal Mental health
In 2017 the CYPE Committee conducted an inquiry into perinatal mental health.
The Perinatal period begins at the start of pregnancy and runs until the end of the first year after a baby is born. Perinatal mental health is about the psychological and emotional health and wellbeing of pregnant women and their children, their partners and their families. – Committee report.
According to Mind Cymru in written evidence submitted to the inquiry, ‘Perinatal mental health problems affect up to 20% of women at some point during pregnancy or in the year after childbirth.’
The Committee report produced in December 2017 highlighted the issues surrounding perinatal mental health in Wales, particularly with respect to the availability of Welsh Mother and Baby Units. The report made a number of recommendations that the committee felt important for the improvement of perinatal mental health services in Wales.
The Committee has since decided to conduct a follow up inquiry, into whether progress is being made on its recommendations.
The Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething AM has released a 12 month update, outlining what work has been conducted towards each of the 27 recommendations made by the report. The Committee then conducted a consultation with stakeholders on the Government response so that they could scrutinise the Minister on his response. In the scrutiny session the Minister acknowledged that further work is needed in this area, stating:
I recognise that we would all have wanted to have moved faster since the committee’s report, and the recommendations that we accepted on developing a mother and baby unit, particularly in south Wales, but also the north Wales position as well.
The Minster offered to provide the Committee with further updates:
I think that we should provide the committee with a six monthly update on our general progress on what’s happening, because we could provide some answers to this on a regular basis, which would answer some of the questions that we may not be able to give you in all of the detail you’d want today, the figures that we’ll acquire, but, also, to give some reassurance that progress is being made […]
Article by Holly Kings, Senedd Research, National Assembly for Wales
The Research Service acknowledges the parliamentary fellowship provided to Holly Kings by the British Biosciences Research Council, which enabled this Research Briefing to be completed.