A child sat next to his father and looking up to him.

Getting support from mental health services

If your child is struggling with their mental health and they need some help, you may be feeling really worried as a parent – and also like you’re not sure where to start. Remember that you and your child are not alone. On this page you can find the services, professionals and organisations that can help you, and information about how to access them.

Trying to find the right help for your child and finding your way around different services can be really tiring at times. Remember to look after yourself as you go – reminding yourself that you’re doing your best and it’s not always easy.

Quick tips for accessing help

It can sometimes be difficult to find out what support is available in your local area, or to know how to talk to professionals about what’s going on for your child.

Parents in similar situations have found that these four things can help:

Before speaking to a professional, make a note of your concerns and the times you have noticed particularly worrying behaviours or feelings. An easy way to do this is by making a list on your phone. Take this with you to appointments to give the professional a clear sense of your child’s situation, and to support any requests for referrals.

Where possible, follow up by email after appointments to confirm what’s been agreed – for example with teachers or other staff at your child’s school. Then check-in a week or two later to find out what’s happened. This is a good way to keep things moving.

If your child is on a waiting list for help, for example from CAMHS, find out whether there are other local services, such as counselling organisations, that can provide support in the meantime. Or, see if your child would like to access some immediate support from an online organisation. Take a look at some online services and helplines available to your child.

As you find your way around local services, try talking to other parents who have been through this, or speak to any friends or family who might be able to advise you about where to get started. For example, if you know anyone who works in mental health support, they might have a good idea about what’s available locally.

I spoke to other parents and those who worked in mental health. I asked them what help they thought I needed. It’s always good to open the conversation up and talk to other parents and mental health professionals.
Nell, parent

Getting support from the GP

Parent talking to their son with their arm around him.

A GP is a doctor who provides overall care for your child’s physical and mental health.

If your child is experiencing thoughts, feelings or behaviours that are affecting their daily life, speaking to a GP is a good first step to finding the help they need.

Among other things, the GP can:

  • speak to your child to find out what’s going on and what might be causing them to feel this way
  • make suggestions for what they think would help
  • refer them for support such as counselling
  • refer them to the NHS mental health service for children and young people, known as CAMHS 
  • refer them to adult NHS mental health services if they are over 18

You can find out more about getting support from GPs, including how to help your child get to an appointment if they are finding it difficult, in our guide.

Parents' guide to GPs

CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services)

CAMHS, also known as Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS), is the NHS service for children and young people’s mental health.

Through CAMHS, your child can access specialist support and treatment such as counselling and therapy, medication, treatment for specific conditions such as eating disorders, and staying in hospital.

Some CAMHS can also diagnose neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism and ADHD, although in some areas this is done through a separate NHS paediatric team.

Each local area has its own CAMHS team, which is run by your local NHS trust. This means each CAMHS around the country is slightly different and waiting times can vary between different areas.

For more information about how your child can access your local CAMHS, including referrals and assessments, have a look at our guide.

Parents' guide to CAMHS
One of my yoga teachers was running a weekend retreat for mums and teenage daughters. It didn’t fix the underlying issues (CAMHS did eventually), but it did give my daughter valuable coping strategies while waiting for her CAMHS appointment.

Counselling and therapy

Counselling and therapy (sometimes called ‘psychotherapy’) are both types of talking therapy that involve talking about feelings, thoughts and experiences.

Counselling and therapy can help your child to make sense of what’s going on and find ways of coping when things are difficult. Your child may be able to access free or low-cost counselling through a local organisation, even if they have not been referred by a GP or are not being treated by CAMHS. There are also private counsellors and therapists working all over the country if this is an affordable option for you.

Take a look at our guide for more information about how counselling works and the different ways your child can access it.

Counselling and therapy
Therapy helped me to gain a better understanding about how I was feeling and it allowed me to learn how to cope with my emotions without getting overwhelmed by them.
Laura, young person

School, college and university

If your child is struggling and they are currently going to school or college, it can help to be open with the school about what’s going on and what support your child needs. You can do this by getting in touch with any member of school staff – such as their class teacher, form tutor, head of year, the SENCO (the school’s coordinator for special educational needs support), a member of the pastoral team or the school nurse.

Depending on their age, it may be important to make sure your child feels some control over the information that’s shared about them at school – for example by discussing with them who they would feel most comfortable for you to speak to in the first instance.

Depending on what’s going on for your child, you might want to ask the school to:

  • provide your child with a member of staff, for example from the pastoral team, who they can chat to when they’re struggling
  • link your child with a peer buddy or mentor, or a professional mentor
  • refer your child for school counselling if it is available, or to CAMHS or other local mental health organisations

If your child is feeling anxious about school, or finding going to school difficult, have a look at our guide for more information about support schools can offer, including Special Educational Needs (SEN) support.

Parents' guide to school anxiety

Supporting with university

If your child is at university, they can access help through the university's support services. This usually includes a free counselling service for students, which most universities provide. 

You can find more information and advice about finding help at university in our guide for parents and carers.

Mental health at university

Early help and intervention services

Early help is provided by your local authority, and may include support from professionals such as mental health nurses, health visitors, psychologists, social workers and family support workers.

Early help may be offered to you if your family is going through a particularly challenging time, or if your child does not meet the threshold for specialist support such as CAMHS. In many areas, you can also refer yourself to early help by contacting your local council.

Early help practitioners will work with you to identify what your family needs and put support in place to stop things getting worse.

Through early help you may be able to access things like:

  • parenting support to help you manage your child’s behaviour if it is challenging at the moment
  • mentoring for you or your child
  • specialist help such as speech and language therapy
  • support with housing

To find out more about how early help works and how you can access it, have a look at our guide for parents.

Parents' guide to early help services
A close up of a mother and her daughters doing homework together in the lounge
Our early help contact built a relationship with the whole family over time, so they had a good understanding of our family's needs and could really advocate for us.

Advocacy and legal support

You may need to find legal help or advocacy support because you are:

  • supporting your child through problems at school or with their education
  • navigating mental health services or supporting your child to access mental health treatment
  • experiencing family challenges or issues
  • raising a complaint about your child’s mental health treatment

At times, understanding your own or your child’s legal rights, and navigating different types of services, can feel overwhelming. If you need some help, we've got a list of organisations below that you can contact. They can support you to work out the best next step.

If you would like more general information and advice about things like benefits, work, debt, housing, court proceedings or immigration, go to Citizen’s Advice.

Advocates are independent, trained support workers who can help your child to understand their rights, express their views, raise concerns or complaints, and participate in decisions about their care.

These organisations can provide more information about how advocacy works, and how you can access it.

These organisations can provide information about mental health law, including being sectioned, treatment in hospital, making decisions about care and treatment, and accessing mental health services.

  • Mind Legal Line

    Provides information and advice on mental health law, including being detained, mental capacity, community care and discrimination and equality.

    Opening times:
    9am - 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays)
  • National Autistic Society - Inpatient Service

    Advice and support for autistic people who have been detained in a mental health hospital, or are at risk of being detained, and for their families.

    Contact them using this online form, and someone will be in touch to offer support.

  • The Scottish Law Centre

    Provides legal advice on children’s rights and child law across Scotland - including around issues such as parent contact, education, health, social work and confidentiality. 

    Opening times:
    9.30am - 4pm, Monday - Friday
  • Children's Law Centre (Northern Ireland)

    Free legal advice and information for children, young people and parents in Northern Ireland. Covers topics such as mental health law, family law and education law. 

These organisations can provide information and advice around issues such as Special Educational Needs (SEN), school absence, alternative provision and school exclusion.

These organisations can help with things like accessing family support services, child welfare and protection, parental disputes, and divorce and separation.

Legal aid can help you cover the costs of a legal process. You may be able to access free legal advice, help with negotiations and paperwork, and a lawyer who can get your case ready and represent you in court.

For more information about qualifying for legal aid, visit the government website.

If you do qualify for legal aid, you can use the government’s free legal advice service.

Other local support services

Your child may be able to access other types of mental health support in your local area, including support groups, drop-in sessions, clubs and mentoring schemes.

You can search for these online or by using the Youth Access directory. You can also ask your GP to outline what support is available locally.

Your local authority’s website should also have information about the Local Offer and Information Advice and Support (IAS) service. These are the local services available to children and young people who have special education needs and disabilities (up to the age of 25). Find your local authority.

Just keep going and explore all the options you can. Don’t exclude any options and pursue every avenue. Talk to other parents, especially someone who might be able to give you advice about what’s available in your local area or in the regional area.
Nell, parent

Finding support for you

Supporting a young person who is struggling can be worrying and exhausting – and it’s entirely understandable if you are finding things difficult at the moment.

It’s so important to recognise the impact the situation is having on you, and to think about ways you can take care of yourself – including getting support from other people so that you can take some time off. Remember that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it, and to share your worries with someone you trust.

Many parents find it helpful to reach out to other parents so they can talk through how they have handled difficult situations with their children and get support. You can connect with other parents by:

You can also find support services such as counselling or therapy through your GP and other local organisations, or privately if this is an affordable option for you.

Sometimes it helps just having someone there who can listen to what you’re going through – and if you need someone to talk to, you can call the Samaritans anytime on 116 123.

Contact Samaritans
As parents, we often (innocently and with the best of intentions) place taking care of ourselves at the bottom of the list of priorities. With our to-do lists multiplying overnight, that much-needed ‘me time’ inevitably starts to slip further down the list. But looking after our own wellbeing and self-care is so important.
Kate, parent

YoungMinds Parents Helpline

We offer support, information and advice to parents and carers who are concerned about their child’s mental health (up to the age of 25). You can contact us by phone, email or webchat.

Over the phone, we can talk through your concerns, provide support and give you practical advice on what to do next. If you need further help, we can also arrange for one of our independent, experienced mental health professionals to call you for a free, 50-minute telephone consultation within seven days.

Over webchat and email, we can provide information and signposting to help you find the right support for your child.

Contact the Parents Helpline

Useful helplines and websites

While we take care to ensure that the organisations we signpost to provide high quality information and advice, we cannot take responsibility for any specific pieces of advice they may offer. We encourage parents and carers to always explore the website of a linked service or organisation to understand who they are and what support they offer before engaging with them.

  • YoungMinds Parents Helpline

    We support parents and carers who are concerned about their child or young person's mental health. Our Parents Helpline provides detailed advice and information, emotional support and signposting.

    You can speak to us over the phone or chat to us online.

    You can speak to us over webchat between 9.30am and 4pm from Monday-Friday. When we’re closed, you can still leave us a message in the chat. We’ll reply to you by email in 3-5 working days.

    Opening times:
    9.30am-4pm, Monday-Friday
  • Parenting Mental Health

    Digital support community and charity offering information, peer support, facilitated listening circles, mentoring and courses for parents of children with mental health difficulties.

    Founder Suzanne Alderson’s book Never Let Go - How to Parent Your Child Through Mental Illness (Penguin, 2020) outlines how she supported her daughter to recovery after she became depressed and suicidal.

  • Youth Access

    Provides information about local counselling and advice services for young people aged 11-25.

    Put in your location and what you need help with into their 'Find help' search, and see what services are available in your area.

  • Hub of Hope

    A national database of mental health charities and organisations across Britain that offer mental health advice, including for family members.

  • Bayo

    Bayo has a list of organisations that work specifically with Black young people, including places where Black young people can get mental health support in their local community.

  • Black Minds Matter

    Connects Black individuals and families with free professional mental health services across the UK.

    You can get in touch here.

  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

    Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

    Opening times:
  • CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)

    Provides support to anyone aged 16+ who is feeling down and needs to talk or find information.

    Free webchat service available.

    Read information about the helpline and how it works.

    Opening times:
    5pm - midnight, 365 days a year
  • Samaritans

    Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support. N.B. This is a listening service and does not offer advice or intervention.

    Opening times:
  • Papyrus

    Offers confidential advice and support for young people struggling with suicidal thoughts, as well as family and friends; and information about how to make a safety plan.

    Its helpline service - HOPELINE247 - is available to anybody under the age of 35 experiencing suicidal thoughts, or anybody concerned that a young person could be thinking of suicide.

    Opening times:
    24/7 every day of the year
  • Tellmi

    Formerly known as MeeToo. A free app for teenagers (11+) providing resources and a fully-moderated community where you can share your problems, get support and help other people too.

    Can be downloaded from Google Play or App Store.

  • Muslim Youth Helpline

    Provides faith and culturally sensitive support for young Muslims. 

    Online chat service available during opening hours.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 10pm, 365 days a year

Whether you love the page or think something is missing, we appreciate your feedback. It all helps us to support more young people with their mental health.

Please be aware that this form isn’t a mental health support service. If your child is in crisis right now and you want to talk to someone urgently, find out who to contact on our urgent help page.

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Please note:

This form is not a mental health support service. We cannot reply to this. If you or your child are at immediate risk of harm, call 999 and ask for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E. If you are worried about your child’s mental health, call our Parents Helpline on 0808 802 5544, Mon-Fri, 9:30am – 4pm. If you are struggling with your own mental health, call Samaritans on 116 123.

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