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Learnings from pandemic can help young people in Wales' mental health and wellbeing in the future

Published: 12 July 2022

The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted every young person in Wales, although how young people’s mental wellbeing has been affected depends on a range of factors, according to a new Mental Wellbeing Impact Assessment (MWIA) from Public Health Wales.

The findings highlight strong evidence that key building blocks for good mental health and wellbeing including, family and social relationships, education, economic security, access to services, participation in group activities, feeling safe and in control were all impacted during the pandemic. 

The detailed report identifies a series of factors that helped protect young people’s mental health and wellbeing. These included, close relationships with parents, having secure housing with space to study and be outdoors, keeping in touch with friends and family, staying physically active, maintaining a routine and structure to the day, seeking help when needed, learning new skills, leisure and creative activities.  

Report Author, Nerys Edmonds, Principal Health Impact Assessment Development Officer, Public Health Wales, said: 

“This MIWA was carried out to identify the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental wellbeing of young people aged 10-24 in Wales. At an early stage of the first ‘lockdown’ in spring 2020, it was understood there were likely to be major impacts on the mental health and wellbeing of young people, but there was a lack of evidence to inform policy. 

“We expected it to highlight the negative effects of the pandemic on young people. Disrupted social interaction, relationships, education and group activities had broad reaching effects on young people’s mental health at a key time in their lives and development. There is strong evidence of more negative impacts on some groups , including young people age 16- 24 compared to other adult groups, young women, those living in low income households, those advised to shield, and those with existing mental health or additional learning needs. 

“Young people also demonstrated resilience and adaptation during the challenging conditions of the pandemic, and disruption to their lives and education. Many used new coping and thinking strategies to help themselves, acted to help others through volunteering or supporting family members. Some developed new skills and became more independent learners.  

“We now want to use this information to help organisations across Wales to support those who are suffering more negatively from the consequences of COVID-19 and to use this learning to respond to the future challenges that could impact mental wellbeing in the longer term, such as climate change, and plan for future pandemics and emergencies. This work has enabled us to identify ten key areas of action to do this.  

“A cross governmental and whole of society approach is needed and young people, families, employers, communities and schools as well as health and social care all have an important role to play in the recovery from the pandemic and protecting mental wellbeing in the long term.”  

Areas for action identified from the assessment include: 

  • Listening to young people and ensure their views and needs inform policy and recovery measures. 
  • Addressing long term impacts and inequalities in mental health and wellbeing 
  • Mitigate negative impacts identified on the protective factors for mental wellbeing 
  • Increase emphasis on mental health and wellbeing in education  
  • Support parents and family relationships  
  • Communications and information provision  
  • Use and access to digital tools and internet connectivity  
  • Improve access to mental health and wellbeing support 
  • Communities, housing, and the built and natural environment 
  • Build the evidence base on the impact of health protection measures on mental wellbeing 

‘Protecting the mental wellbeing of our future generations: learning from COVID-19 for the long term. A Mental Wellbeing Impact Assessment Approach,’ was published by the Wales Health Impact Assessment Support Unit, WHO Collaborating Centre, Public Health Wales.