Is this the way to promote mental wellbeing among Cardiff’s young people?

The Cardiffian visits The Hangout, which could provide a blueprint for the Welsh government’s new strategy

THE Welsh Government this week launched a new mental health and wellbeing strategy to focus on prevention through things like exercise, fellowship and being outdoors.

So The Cardiffian visited The Hangout – an innovative Cardiff centre that is already helping young people and could provide a blueprint for future care.

About 75% of all mental health conditions reported in Wales relate to those aged 23 or under. The new strategy was based in part on suggestions from a public consultation last year.

For instance, exercise can help maintain good mental health but for years, inequality of access to facilities has contributed to the poor mental health of young people across Wales.  

At The Hangout young people can meet others, access mental health support, find volunteering opportunities and get involved in wellbeing groups.

“We are redefining how children and young people across Cardiff access mental health and emotional wellbeing support, ” said Olivia Gallen, a well-being practitioner at the Welsh government-funded safe space.

Since it opened in April 2023, the Churchill Way centre has been improved following suggestions from the young people who use it. It has a social lounge with video games, books, board games and movies, an activity room for group sessions, and several smaller rooms for people who want a quiet place to sit.  

The Lounge area of The Hangout on Churchill Way, Cardiff. Credit: Billy Stewart

“There is no pressure,” said Ms Gallen. “Young people can ask all the questions they want and can build a relationship with us at their own pace.”   

It is a place where the young are in control and can get the help they feel is best for them, whether that is simply just somewhere to make friends, one-to-one counselling or a nice space to relax in. 

The Hangout is open from 3pm to 9pm every day to walk-ins or pre-arranged visits for mental health counselling. There is no waiting list. Anyone aged 11-18 can turn up.

“There is no limit to how long the young people can spend here,” said Ms Gallen. “There is no problem too big or too small.”  

Access to mental health support facilities such as The Hangout are central to the Welsh government’s new strategy.  

Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle, said the strategy focused on “prevention through ensuring everyone has access to things they need to maintain good mental health, like exercise, the natural environment and belonging to the community”.

“People have told us not to medicalise mental health,”  she said.

“For most people, whilst they do need support, they don’t necessarily need clinical or specialised mental health services.”

The public now has until June 11 to comment on the plans.

Ewan Hilton, chief executive of The Hangout’s parent Company, Platfform, described it as “an example of a new mental health approach we advocate for, which is judgment-free, compassionate, and accessible.

“It is a place where people can connect to others and get the support they need.”  

Platfform also runs the Power Up initiative to help people aged up to 25 transition into adult life.

Power Up’s Evee Freitag said: “The transition to adulthood can be daunting and often young people worry about the future, and how they will get support.”  

Evee Freitag (left) and Matylda Sieja both work for Power Up. Credit: Billy Stewart

She hopes that Power Up will influence Welsh mental health strategy for years to come.   

The Power Up team will next week be hosting free drop-in sessions at the University of South Wales Campus for all Cardiff students.

So what does the team at The Hangout make of the new mental health strategy?  

“It is good that the want for change is there, but there is definitely a long way to go in order to make places like this a lot more common,”  said Ms Gallen.

Natalie Coombs, service manager, supported the government’s new strategy.

“Taking on the opinions of young people is quite new and something that should have always been around but it’s a really good thing that it has happened with this,” she said. 

The Hangout at 26-28 Churchill Way, Cardiff. Credit: Billy Stewart
  • You can read more about the Welsh Government’s new Strategy for Mental Health here.