Thursday 2 February 2012


I was very interested in this story from Hafal's Young People's web-site...

Vale of Clwyd MP Chris Ruane has claimed children are under threat "like never before" and there are "dark clouds ahead" because of threats to their mental and psychological wellbeing.

The Labour MP this week secured a debate in which he raised concerns about what he says are the multiple dangers to wellbeing faced by children today, ranging from poverty to self-harm and screen violence.

He told MPs: "Our children are under threat like never before. In the past, threats to children were mainly physical. Many died in infancy, when working, or of diseases. The modern threat to our children and young people is more to their mental and psychological wellbeing.

"There are dark clouds ahead and we all need to monitor this area".

For more on this including both the UK and the Welsh Governments' responses (and for lots of other excellent news and information) follow this link.

This raise two key questions: (1) Does the current social and economic climate increase mental health problems among young people? and (2) Is it appropriate to have a substantial mental health focus in supporting all young people?

No doubt there are young people and others whose mental health suffers as a consequence of unemployment, for example, and common sense tells us that a harsh external world can push more vulnerable people over the edge into serious mental health problems.

However, we should be very wary of letting mental health considerations influence wider policy to any great extent simply because we have got too much wrong already in our ideas and practice concerning mental health.

On the whole the general public has better instincts, better habits and better language for getting on with life and dealing with distressing or difficult events than the ideas purveyed by the "wellbeing" agenda which is the latest buzz in mental health services. Most anxieties and distress, even when somewhat disproportionate to the circumstances, are best addressed through practical support by family, friends, and specialist agencies such as the CAB, not through mental health services, though these should be responsive and well-resourced for those whose troubles reach the point where they are needed.

I know that those who promote the wellbeing agenda do not intend this but the consequence of implying to people that the best ports of call to deal with life's problems are mental health services is to increase the already tragic over-prescription of drugs which numb distress but disempower people from addressing their problems. Wales has one of the worst records in the world for this shocking mistreatment of patients.