Your Guide to CAMHS

A beginner's guide to the NHS's Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for young people and parents.

What is CAMHS?

CAMHS stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. CAMHS are the NHS services that assesses and treat young people with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties.

CAMHS support covers depression, problems with food, self-harm, abuse, violence or anger, bipolar, schizophrenia and anxiety, to name a few.

There are local NHS CAMHS services around the UK, with teams made up of nurses, therapists, pyschologists, support workers and social workers, as well as other professionals.

How do I get help from CAMHS?

Someone, usually your parents, teacher, GP, or yourself if old enough, can refer you for an assessment with CAMHS to see what help you could get.

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.

It's important to tell the person referring you as much as you can so you can get the help you need.

Most CAMHS have a website where you can look up how to get access to their service.

Does CAMHS help parents and carers too?

Most CAMHS services work with the whole family to support a young person's health.

This might include coming along to assessment and treatment appointments, depending on the child's age and what level of involvement they want.

How do people move from CAMHS to adult services?

Teenagers need to move from CAMHS to adult mental health services (AMHS) when they reach a certain age. It’s usually 18 but can vary depending on where you live. Your CAMHS worker should talk to you about this move 3 to 6 months before it’s due to happen.

Transition to adult services is a big change, so it's important to get as much information and support as you can from friends and family. First, 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 you’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 are 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. 

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.

Tip: Make sure you ask your GP for as much information as possible about non-NHS support like local youth counselling, charities (such as mental health charity MIND) or school programmes, so you get the support you need. If you’re in education, speak to your college or university counselling service for support and connections to low-cost or free young adult counselling.

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