"I move the motion tabled in the name of my colleague Darren Millar.
Today, I stand before you to address a topic of great importance – a debate to mark that yesterday was world mental health day and that greater action is need on delivering a first class mental health service here in Wales.
Mental health and well-being is not merely a medical issue, it's an issue that affects all elements of our lives, it’s a shared challenge we must all confront together, as a compassionate and supportive community, where no one should suffer in silence or be afraid to ask for help. As some may know, 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives. So having the right levels of support when we need it is vitally important.
Here in Wales, with its rich history and vibrant culture, is a nation known for its resilience and community spirit but even in our close-knit communities, mental health issues affect countless people, directly or indirectly. In the face of this challenge, we must move to a position where mental health is given the same status as physical health and where people are happy to discuss their challenges in an open and tolerant society.
Firstly, we must break the stigma that surrounds mental health, just as we would on physical ailment. Refraining from stigmatizing those facing mental health struggles by fostering a culture of openness and acceptance, where individuals feel comfortable seeking help without fear of judgment would be the major breakthrough we need in shifting the conversation all together.
This begins with education, starting in our schools, where we teach our young people about mental health, resilience, and the importance of seeking support and to be kind to one and other. We should all be well aware of the current state of the mental health and wellbeing of our young people and how key it is in their development. However, despite all the promises, the number of children waiting more than 4 weeks for a first appointment with mental health services in Wales is rising and this trend must stop.
We must ensure that the necessary resources are available to those in need and that funding increases in real terms to meet the demands placed on mental health services. It’s an unfortunate reality that not everyone has access to the mental health services they require. Our healthcare system should be better equipped to handle mental health issues, reducing wait times and ensuring that no one is left without help and support when they need it most.
According to Project Hope, two-thirds of people with mental health conditions do not receive the care they need so we need to do all we can to make sure people get the support they need when they need it.
Reflecting of where we are as a nation, I grow particularly concerned about the rise in loneliness. Loneliness is a subtle but dangerous threat in the realm of mental health and as the National Survey highlighted, 13% of people in Wales were found to be lonely – this figure has remained steady over the previous two years and as we approach the winter months, we must also remember that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as ‘Winter Depression’, affects 1 in 3 people in the UK – yet many do not seek the support they need.
In Wales, we have made progress in recent years by investing in community-based services and providing better support for mental health issues and the introduction of the NHS 111 press 2 service which I and my group have welcomed as a positive step forward by the Minister. However, there is still much work to be done.
It's crucial that we continue to prioritize mental health funding and support, as the well-being of our citizens is not only a moral obligation but also a critical factor in our overall prosperity.
One route which I and my group have been pushing on for many years is a purpose built Mental Health act for Wales. The act would enable us to work within the unique health and social care system in Wales, providing a bespoke approach to improving mental health provisions that are more compatible with wider Welsh law and policy. For one, it would ensuring that provisions could be made for all public bodies in Wales offer mental health first aid training to staff.
One element what I wish to touch on, which is important to me and a number of members in this chamber is a specialist in patient eating disorder unit here in Wales. I know the Welsh Government has a commitment in this area and I hope that the Minister can provide an update in her response on this issue as I think those people in Wales who have suffered with an eating disorder have waited long enough to see this facility being built in Wales.
In conclusion, mental health is not a problem to be swept under the rug. It's an issue that affects everyone. Let us create a Wales where mental health is a priority, where individuals feel safe and encouraged to seek help, and where we are united in our commitment to improving the mental well-being of our nation. Together, we can build a culture of openness in Wales, where everyone has the opportunity to live a life that is mentally and emotionally fulfilling."