By Kirby Evans
Cardiff University has recently announced the development of The Wolfson Centre, a research centre focused on understanding and developing new ways of reducing anxiety and depression in children and adolescents. This comes following the funding of £10 million from the Wolfson Foundation.
While based at Cardiff University, the centre will be in collaboration with Swansea University as well as in partnership with the Welsh Government, NHS Wales, University Health Boards and Welsh schools.
Many believe this funding comes at a vital time. For example, Mind Cymru reported that over the last 12 months, there have been 21,000 child and adolescent mental health referrals and the group’s recent survey found that one in seven young people described their mental health as either poor or very poor.
The same charity conducted a survey in July 2019 and also found that of 3,000 11-19 year olds, 22% had accessed support for their mental health in school, 44% didn’t find support at school helpful, 48% wouldn’t know where to go to access support within school, and if they did, 56% wouldn’t feel confident approaching teachers or other staff regardless, according to a BBC article.
Mental health services available in South Wales are argued by some to be limited and, despite the 2011 opening of an adolescent inpatient centre in Bridgend, many of those experiencing severe mental health difficulties are having to utilise treatment centres that are hours away from their homes.
Whilst the new Wolfson Centre isn’t a treatment centre as such, policy officers have said it should help identify gaps in support, meaning that future treatment is more readily available and effective.
The main purpose of the new research centre is to understand more about the factors that contribute to poor mental health in young people, such as parenting, family or genetic factors, social media as well as wider lifestyle and environmental factors.
The Wolfson Centre will reportedly focus on five areas: It will examine longitudinal data that track thousands of teenagers and better understand how anxiety and depression develop; it will consider the role genetic and environmental factors play in anxiety and depression in young people; it will develop and test a new intervention to support young people and families where a parent suffers from depression; it will look at the role schools play in promoting positive mental health; and finally, it aims to better understand long-term outcomes of those young people who experience anxiety and depression, according to a statement from Cardiff University.
It will also be looking into possible reasons for the recent increases in youth anxiety and depression.
All the Wolfson Centre’s scientific findings will be developed in partnership with young people, practitioners and policy makers and the hope is that the information generated from this research will be used to shape public health and school policies, to ultimately promote better mental health in school-aged children.
The Wolfson Centre’s plans also include developing the next generation of youth mental health experts and holding an annual adolescent mental health summer school for training.