What is CAMHS?
The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) the NHS provided services in the UK for children who are having difficulties with their emotional or behavioural well-being.
As the services are organised by local government area, the exact services provided may vary.
How does it work?
In the UK CAMHS are organised around a four tier system:
General advice and treatment for less severe problems by non-mental health specialists working in general services. Includes GPs, school nurses, social workers, and voluntary agencies.
Usually CAMHS are specialists working in community and primary care. These include mental health workers and counsellors working in clinics, schools and youth services.
Usually a multi-disciplinary team or service working in a community mental health clinic providing a specialised service for more severe disorders, with team members including psychiatrists, social workers, board certified behaviour analysts, clinical psychologists, psychotherapists and other therapists.
These are highly specialist services for children and young people with serious problems. Includes day units, specialised outpatient teams and in-patient units.
Experiences of CAMHS vary widely and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to this. Staff turnover, waiting times, key workers, acceptance of various conditions all seem to colour families’ experiences. Depending on who you are in conversation with, CAMHS can be heroes or villains.
The Young Minds website gives comprehensive information about CAMHS in England. It is a great source of support for families needing to access CAMHS services.
The NHS site explains the core functions of CAMHS. It has some useful video interviews which explain what services CAMHS provides. There are pages for both parents, carers, children and young people. These are particularly useful for preparing young people for their CAMHS appointment.
What should I ask CAMHS
If you are wondering what questions to ask, then take this page with you when you talk to your healthcare provider about treatment. Or use it as a starting point for your own list of questions.
The Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health has a very comprehensive website which has clear guidance on access to and referral to CAMHS. It also has information about what is ‘In the Pipeline’ for CAMHS in England, Wales and Scotland. This website also useful events countrywide related to Young People’s mental health.
Skybadger is where you’ll find tonnes of organisations with information, advice and support for children’s mental health.