What ARE caMHs?
CAMHS stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. CAMHS are specialist NHS services.
They offer assessment and treatment when children and young people have emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties.
Children and young people and their families can be referred to CAMHS if children are finding it hard to cope with family life, school or the wider world. If these difficulties are too much for family, friends or GPs to help with, CAMHS may be able to assist.
Types of problems CAMHS can help with include violent or angry behaviour, depression, eating difficulties, low self-esteem, anxiety, obsessions or compulsions, sleep problems, self-harming and the effects of abuse or traumatic events. CAMHS can also diagnose and treat serious mental health problems such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
How can we SEE CAHMS?
There are different ways to get an appoitnment with CAMHS. The most common is via your child’s GP.
You can discuss your worries about your child with their GP. If they are old enough and feel able to do so, your child can see the GP themselves.
It can be useful to write down what is worrying you before you visit the GP, including how long the difficulties have been happening and anything you feel might be causing them. The GP may be able to offer their own advice. If GPs think specialist help is needed, they can write a letter to CAMHS asking them to make an appointment for your child.
Others who may be able to make a referral to CAMHS include:
- Teachers or other school staff
- Health visitors
- School nurses
- Social workers
- Youth counselling services.
CAMHS are expected to work with children and young people up to the age of 18. However, some services will only see young people aged 16-18 if they are in full-time education. Individual services vary, so ask the person you see at CAMHS at what age their service stops.
If your child is over the age at which their local CAMHS stops seeing young people, they will probably need to be referred to the adult mental health team, or to support services for older young people. Different areas have different ways of organising their services so it is best to contact your GP for advice.
Waiting lists for CAMHS vary and it is worth asking your GP what the waiting time is like in your area, or contacting the CAMHS administrator directly.
In the meantime it can help to talk to your child and their teachers, GP or other people who support them, about how to help them while waiting for the CAMHS process to start.
If you feel the waiting time is particularly long, you should consider contacting Patients Advisory Liaison Service (PALS). You can make a formal complaint if you feel you are not being offered help within a reasonable time, and can also try contacting your local MP.