Two people walking and talking on the street.

Guide to CAMHS

What is CAMHS?

CAMHS stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. CAMHS is the NHS mental health services for children and young people.

CAMHS support covers depressionproblems with food and eatingself-harmabuse, violence or angerbipolar disorderschizophrenia and anxiety, and other difficulties.

There are local NHS CAMHS services around the UK, with teams made up of nurses, therapists, psychologists, child and adolescent psychiatrists (medical doctors specialising in mental health), support workers and social workers, as well as other professionals.

What is CYPMHS?

You might also see CYPMHS used which stands for Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services. This is a new term and it includes all the services that might be available to help you as well as CAMHS.

On this page, we will use the term CAMHS to refer to the NHS service that helps people like you, with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties.

How do I get help from CAMHS?

The first step to getting help from CAMHS is usually getting a referral for a CAMHS assessment. This referral can come from your parents/carers, a teacher, a GP, or yourself if you are old enough (depending on where you live).

If you're being supported by social care, a youth offending team, or a service at your school, they might also be able to refer you.

Try to tell the person making the referral as much as you can so you can, to get the help you need.

Most local CAMHS teams have a website where you can look up how to get access to their service. You can find your local CAMHS team using your postcode.

Find your local CAMHS team
Try to be as open and honest as possible at your first appointment. These people are not mind readers and if you lie, you will not receive the best treatment plan for you to get better.

What happens at a CAMHS assessment?

Next you’ll be put on a waiting list for an assessment. This can sound scary but it’s normally just a chat so the CAMHS team can get to know you and see how they can help.

You’ll normally meet one or two members of the CAMHS team. If you’re under 16 years old, your parent(s) or carer(s) will usually be invited to join for part of this meeting.

This appointment will generally take place at a CAMHS clinic. But they might meet with you at your school or home. They’ll discuss with you the best place to meet before your appointment.

In the meeting the team will ask questions about your struggles so they can find the best support for you.

Here are some common questions the CAMHS team might ask in an assessment:

  • What has brought you to CAMHS?
  • How long have you experienced the problem that has brought you to CAMHS?
  • What would you like to change in your life?
  • What might help tackle the problems you are experiencing?
  • How have you been feeling recently?

It can be helpful before your appointment to think of how you’d answer these questions. You can even write down what you want to say before you go. This can help make sure you don’t forget anything during your appointment and make it easier to talk.

At the end of your assessment, the team will talk to you about what happens next and what support they think you might need. You can also ask any questions you have.

They may talk about your ‘treatment’ – this just means what you’ll do together to help you get better.

If you would feel more comfortable having a parent or carer in the room with you during your assessment, that’s fine. You can also see the team by yourself if you would prefer, though staff may expect a parent to be present for part of the meeting.

Also, if you or your parent/carer is not confident speaking English, CAMHS can provide an interpreter to help. Just let them know if this is the case.

CAMHS also has a service specifically for Deaf young people, known as Deaf CAMHS. The specialists working within Deaf CAMHS use British Sign Language (BSL). You can access Deaf CAMHS if you or your parents/carers are Deaf or hearing impaired.

Your CAMHS assessment is a great opportunity to ask any questions you have. Here are some questions you may want to think about asking in your CAMHS assessment:

  • How long will I have to wait for treatment?
  • What help can I get straight away?
  • Can you recommend any local charities that help young people?
  • Who do I call if I have a mental health emergency? Is there a 24-hour phone number?
  • If I get talking therapy, how many sessions will I get?
  • Is my GP still involved in my care?

It’s important at your CAMHS assessment to try and be as honest as possible, as this will help the team assessing you understand how to support you.

Here are some things that are helpful for you to tell them:

  • when your problems started
  • what you’d like to change
  • if there's a pattern in the problems (keeping a diary or log book before your assessment can be really helpful to show this)
  • any difficulties in school or with friends
  • any general health problems, either now or in the past
  • any big family events or issues like divorce or bereavement
  • any recent or past trauma, e.g. emotional, sexual or physical abuse
  • other services you've had help from, like social care, hospital or private treatments

Once your treatment starts, you can still ask questions to make sure you are comfortable with what's going on. Here are some questions you may want to consider asking:

  • Do I have to take medication?
  • If I do take medication, will I get a talking therapy at the same time?
  • Is this the only treatment available for me?
  • Is it a common treatment for people my age?
  • Where can I find out more about my treatment?
  • What if the treatment doesn’t work?
  • If I do start to feel upset, what should I do?
  • How will the treatment make me feel?

If your treatment involves medication, here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • What are the side effects of the medication?
  • How long will it take to make me feel better?
  • Will I have to take it forever?
  • Can I stop this treatment at any point?
  • What do I do if I start feeling worse?
  • Will the treatment cure me?
  • Do I have to tell my teachers/friends/family?
  • Can I join any local groups for children and young people having the same treatment?
  • Are there things that I can’t do because of my treatment?
  • Will I receive regular check-ups?
Find out more in our medication guides
  • It’s completely normal to be nervous, but just remember that everyone at CAMHS has your best interest in mind – you’re in good hands.
  • CAMHS sometimes gets a bad name, but I certainly found that the majority of CAMHS staff just want to help.

Moving from CAMHS to AMHS

You will need to move from CAMHS to adult mental health services (AMHS) when you reach a certain age – this is usually 18 but can vary depending on where you live, with some areas requiring you to move services at 16. Your CAMHS worker should talk to you about this move three to six months before it happens.

Transition to adult services is a big change. Speak to friends and family to get their support. Make sure you have all the information so you know what’s happening.

Your CAMHS case worker or care coordinator should help you arrange an appointment with AMHS and come along with you if you need support. If you don’t hear anything about this, don’t be afraid to ask.
You'll have an assessment with both CAMHS and adult services to decide what kind of help you can get from the NHS. You may not be eligible for the level of care adult services provide, but either way, they’ll develop a plan for what happens next.

Make sure you also ask about non-NHS support like local youth counselling, charities or school programmes.

If you're eligible for adult services, your CAMHS worker should help you through the process of moving from one service to the other. The two services are quite different, so don’t worry about asking for as much help as you need to make the change smoother for you.

If you’re well enough to leave CAMHS without moving into adult services, your CAMHS worker, therapist or counsellor can help you make a plan, so you know what to do if you ever need help again. This will include details of crisis teams and helplines you can contact whenever you feel in need of support.

Below are some questions you may want to ask about the transition from CAMHS to AMHS.

  • When will I transition to adult services?
  • Will I get told in advance?
  • What is an assessment of needs/discharge plan?
  • Can my family be at my assessment meetings?
  • What happens if I can’t get help from the NHS as an adult?
  • Who is my lead professional and who is my care coordinator?
  • Who will be involved in the assessment?
  • Can my family still be involved in my care?
I was convinced that moving to adult services was the end of the world. BUT here I am, two years down the line, and I can tell you that I survived and that it was okay.
I had all my diagnoses changed in AMHS. It didn’t happen straight away, and the changes have been hard-fought, but I finally feel like I understand myself better.

What are my rights?

Understanding your rights helps you to be in charge of your treatment. You should always:

  • be asked for your consent if possible before treatment options are agreed
  • be given what you need to make decisions, e.g. an interpreter if you need one
  • know how to complain and what the complaint process is
  • be given access to an independent advocate if you need to complain

Under the UN's law on the Rights of the Child, your opinion must always be taken seriously when decisions are made about your treatment. Read more about your rights under the UN laws.

What information is shared and with whom may depend on your age, support needs and risk level.

If you are under 18, a mental health professional may have to disclose information to protect you from serious harm. This is only done in particular cases and depends on each person’s case.

If you feel you have been treated unfairly by a member of NHS staff, whether that's in CAMHS, in an inpatient ward or in your GP surgery, you are entitled to make a complaint. To make a complaint about treatment in the NHS, follow these steps:

  1. If you're unhappy with how your treatment is going but you don't want to make a formal complaint, speak to the clinician treating you, or contact your local PALS (patient advice liaison service) at your hospital for confidential advice and support.
  2. Check the complaints process. Every NHS organisation has its own process, but they must all follow the same NHS rules. If you can't see the complaints process online, call or email the complaints department.
  3. Find out who to complain to. It will either be the service you used, or the commissioning group who paid for the service. The website can help you find out where to send your complaint.
  4. Send your complaint and wait for a response. Your complaint should be acknowledged within three days, with details of what happens next.
  5. Need to take it further? If you're not happy with the results of your complaint, you can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

If none of this works, you can write to your MP who can complain on your behalf.

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 you are in crisis right now and want to talk to someone urgently, find out who to contact on our urgent help page.

All fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required to submit this form.
Please copy and paste the page link here.
Please do not include personal details. This is not a mental health support service and you will not receive a reply.

Please note:

This form is not a mental health support service. We cannot reply to this. If you are at risk of immediate harm, call 999 and ask for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E. If you are worried about your mental health, call: Childline (for under 19s) on 0800 11 11; or Samaritans on 116 123.

At YoungMinds we take your privacy seriously. If you’d like to read more about how we keep the information we collect safe, take a look at our privacy policy.