RCPsych Wales – Young Person's Mental Health Debate
01 March, 2023
The latest National Mental Health Debate for Young People, held in partnership with Technology Enabled Care (TEC) Cymru, was a powerful reminder that climate change is still an ever-present challenge lurking on the horizon, but still a day filled with hope and optimism for the future.
The event included young people from three primary schools across Wales, with one very bravely attending in person, and two secondary schools from Cardiff, followed by a panel debate on taking advantage of the opportunities of climate change.
From the primary school contributors, we heard of climate distress- the anxiety about the future of our environment is something that children and young people experience, impacting on their mental health and wellbeing. There was also some anger, and risk of despair, through well researched arguments that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. In the face of this, what can young people do? Do they even have responsibility for a crisis not of their own making?
However, we also heard from the debaters of all ages of the small individual things we can all do to lessen the effect of climate change. Taking agency, gives hope. Recycling, planting trees, making environmentally conscious purchases, switching the PlayStation off at the plug. The generation ‘raised by the internet’ suggested how we are more connected, with information being more accessible and shareable, meaning young people can exert pressure on organisations, public and private, whose decision makers are otherwise inaccessible to younger generations. Though as one young person passionately orated – shifting responsibility to the individual shifts focus away from what corporations, and by its role in legislature, government is doing on climate change.
During our panel debate discussing the motion ‘climate change is the most predictable and preventable global crisis, and the most predictable and exploitable innovation opportunity’, we heard from our co-chairs Professor Ahuja on TEC Cymru, and their projects on shifting health from hospitals to remote monitoring and video consulting in reducing travel and reducing potential emissions, and Delyth Jewell MS on the precedents Welsh Government can set on a more sustainable future.
Additionally, Welsh Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor for Health, Dr Rob Orford, joined the panel discussions giving a unique perspective on the scientific impacts and evidence behind climate change, and reminded us that a global co-operation in the Montreal Protocol succeeded to eliminate CFCs and we are seeing the impact on the ozone layer, and this should give us hope for environmental co-operation in the future. Alfred Williamson, from the Youth Climate Ambassadors Cymru, joined the panel discussion to highlight young people’s perspective on the motion
A common message from all present is how our own sense of powerlessness can impact on climate change, as well as its impact on our mental health and wellbeing. However, the collective individual can make an impact. Therefore, to echo the closing remark of a pupil from Llysvaen Primary School, “what are you going to do to save our planet?”.