During its first ever meeting on 23 February, the democratically-elected Welsh Youth Parliament ('WYP') set out its aspirations for the next few years.
Each member gave speeches on the topics they most care about, including hate crime and plastic waste. However, emotional and mental health support was voted to be their main focus. One WYP member commented:
Everyone in this room will struggle with confidence at one point in their lives but everyone here has a common goal of giving our people acceptance and appreciation. Teenagers everywhere are feeling alone and have nowhere to turn to. If suicide is a leading cause of death why are we not supporting young people?
Steps have already been taken in England to try and support young people in schools by introducing compulsory mental health education from 2020.
Wales is also turning its attention to the topic and is currently piloting a scheme in selected schools whereby external child and adolescent mental health service providers are providing on-site help to teachers.
In April 2018, the National Assembly Committee in Wales called on the Welsh Government to make the emotional well-being and mental health of children and young people a stated national priority, and to be fully embedded in the new school curriculum. Following this, a Joint Ministerial Task and Finish Group was set up in September 2018 to ensure mental health and wellbeing is a focus for Welsh schools.
More recently, Health Minister Vaughan Gething has announced a £7m investment to further strengthen the mental health pilot scheme and support whole-school approaches to improve mental health and wellbeing in schools.
It is hoped that the voice of the WYP will enable the funding to be allocated to the most effective resources in providing emotional and mental health support to young people in Wales.