Agenda item

Young People's Mental Health: To discuss with the Youth Service children and young people's concerns around mental health.


Charlie-Jade Atkins and Josh Klein presented the report and answered the members’ questions.


What sort of information are young people after, in terms of relationships and sex education, problems of body image and social media, respect and consent, etc.? How can we help with that?

We recently had a very good conversation with a young person in a secondary school, who had sent an email to their headteacher voicing concerns and feedback about sex education. We met with her and it was very insightful. She was alarmed at her friends’ lack of knowledge. The areas discussed were: being safe physically and emotionally, contraception and protection, how to get to know the person one is with, peer pressures, family values, who to talk to in order to have good conversations, feelings of guilt and shame, the complexity of female pleasure, expectations and self-esteem, anatomical correctness, and the effect of social media such as Instagram. We have worked with a lot of young people during lockdown who have issues with self-esteem and body image, to the point where some of the people we saw in person prior to lockdown chose not to interact with us via video calls. Our online consent form includes a choice for how young people wish to interact with us; a lot of them have decided that they would prefer to do so by phone call or text, rather than video call. This applies to girls and boys. Revenge porn and sexting are other big concerns, as is knowing where to go for help, information and contraception, as well as consent, managing risks, and the consequences of not doing so.

It’s great that they are so aware of what they want. Sexual health clinics could be much less degrading and clinical. Perhaps a sub-group would be useful to work on these matters?

The young people are already having these conversations and are looking for someone to talk to – the Friday Friendlies have begun to serve this purpose. This would be a good place for councillors to attend and join the conversations. Cabinet Member Sara Jones recently attended one on Gender Equality, giving her the chance to speak and listen to the young people, which was very helpful.

Martyn: When we talk about sex and relationships education, one thing we see time and again when things reach a crisis point with violence against women, is that the perpetrators are male. There is a huge problem with a gender divide. Looking to the new curriculum in Wales, there is a big role for youth organisations to be in schools and influence what is taught.

We are working on the Participation and Shift projects, through which we are seeing things first-hand. Perhaps there aren’t enough of us working on these areas. Development of the new curriculum is a great opportunity for the Youth Service to be involved. We have been invited to the meeting of the secondary school staff responsible for developing SMRSE: we are going to identify gaps in provision at Key Stage 3 and 4, look at what young people in the area are telling us, what the needs are that have been identified by the school, and we are going to develop bespoke packages, as the new curriculum dictates. These conversations are in the early stages now.

Regarding the recommendations, something we can help with is to call those who collaborate on dealing with adolescent mental health (Aneurin Bevan, Mind, etc.) to come to this committee and answer our questions?

The data from sex ed. table and young people’s opinions at the Youth Conference in January have been fed back to the Welsh Youth Parliament, which fed back to the curriculum group. So much of what we’ve discussed in terms of young people’s needs has been fed back directly.

You mentioned ‘family values’ – will there be an emphasis on strong and stable relationships, as there has been in the past?

Something we try to do is develop young people’s resilience, and ensure they have the right networks and support. We would hope that all of that would be encapsulated in what we hope to develop, yes.

Domestic violence being included is very important. Healthy relationships include respect and non-violence. It’s important that strong and stable relationships are included, beyond just biological knowledge.

Yes, one of the themes that came through from the young people was that it wasn’t so much the biological side that they wanted to know about, but everything else. We will make a note of that.

Young people being persuaded to take photographs of themselves, which then go online, is a big concern. Do we have people who can help the young people before they get into trouble?

Yes, youth work is all about listening to people, without judgement. We have had a lot of feedback in recent years about ‘Sexting’, and there are very good resources out there. When we speak to young people and parents about this problem, the legalities around it shock them i.e. if a young person who is under 18 takes a photo of themselves, they are ‘producing an indecent image of a child’ in doing so, and sending it is then classed as ‘distribution’, and the recipient is in ‘possession’. When these issues first came to the fore in recent years, the Police went into schools, approaching the problem from the criminal side, but eventually, as more has been understood, education has come to have the biggest impact on young people. It is positive that Revenge Porn is now in legislation as illegal.

What is the contact with our Mental Health team, and their initiatives such as the Iceberg Project?

The Shift project, and the specific mental health and wellbeing work that we do, is specifically non-clinical, using youth work methodologies and interventions. We have a great network around us of mental health specialists e.g. we have done a lot of work with Papyrus, a group that addresses suicide. We have an excellent database of organisations from which we can seek advice, share referrals, etc. The framework is very much there for 11-18 and we are getting there for 18-25. Any other suggestions for people to work with would be very welcome.

Chair’s Summary:

The members have all benefitted greatly from this update are very grateful to the team for its work.

Sub-groups will be useful for a number of these areas, as suggested by Councillor Dymock. We need to do what the young people want, not what the Council thinks they want. Councillor Groucott raised the point about sexual violence, which is a great concern – we need to tackle this, and the underlying contributing attitudes. Linking up with Aneurin Bevan and Mind etc. on this is a good idea. He suggested further that perhaps once a year, we could have a dedicated CYP committee where the wishes and needs of young people form the basis, or the young people could even run the committee. Members spoke of the importance of strong and stable relationships. Councillor Penny Jones mentioned the mental health team and contributing to Friday Friendlies sessions, including talking to the young people about politics, and how they can bring about change in society.

We accept the recommendations, and offer our support to the youth service. We should foster closer links between MCC and E2C, using the latter as a method of engagement with the young people of Monmouthshire to inform agendas and decision-making. The door to CYP will always be open, and we are very happy to participate in the Friday Friendlies, if that would be useful. We will build an annual report from the youth service into the work programme.


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