Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)

Struggling with your mental health can be tough and you don't have to do it alone. CAMHS can help if you're experiencing depression, eating problems, self-harm or other mental health issues. 

What is camhs?

CAMHS stands for Child and adolescent mental health services. It's a free service run by your local NHS and is made up of medical and mental health professionals. 

CAMHS can help if you're going through mental health issues such as depressionanxietypanic attacks, hearing voices, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts. Everyone at CAMHS is there to support you and help you get better.

Your experience of CAMHS will be unique to you and you can look up what mental health support services are available in your local area on the NHS website. 

How CAMHs assessment works

After your GP or school has referred you to CAMHS you'll be invited to an assessment. This is just so that CAMHS can find out more about what you're going through and what support you might need. 

At this first appointment, they'll ask about your mood and things at home and school so they can get to know you and understand how best to help.

Your parents or carers might come to this appointment too. And you can ask for an interpreter if you need one. 

How long you have to wait for this appointment can vary between different CAMHS services and depend on waiting times in your local area. And it can be several weeks between when you're first referred and when you start seeing a CAMHS worker.

Remember you can always get support from your GP in the meantime, and it's really important to do this if you're worried about your safety or the safety of others around you. In an emergency go straight to your nearest A&E. You can also always speak to a Childline counsellor

Feeling scared about going to CAMHS

It's natural to feel overwhelmed or worried about talking about difficult memories or thoughts. But it can help to remember: 

  • CAMHS are here to help you and are on your side
  • what you tell them is confidential and the sessions are a safe space for you
  • you can always let your CAMHS worker know if you feel uncomfortable or like things are going too fast.

Getting the support you need

It's important to be honest with your CAMHS workers and to keep sharing with them so that they can understand what's going on for you and how best to help.

Telling your parents or carers

You might be worried about your parents or carers knowing that you're getting support from CAMHS. You may think it'll upset them or that they'll be worried, but being honest can help you feel better and make it easier for them to support you. It can also help to ask CAMHS about their confidentiality. 

Sharing that you're struggling with your mental health can feel hard and it can be difficult to know where to start. Try to work out what it is that worries you and then explain this to CAMHS. They can help you come up with ways to talk to your parents or carers, and can also talk to them for you. 

Remember you don't have to tell your parents or carers anything about your sessions that you don't want to, including what you talk about with your therapist. If they try and insist that you tell them, or on coming to your sessions, you can ask CAMHS to explain this to them.  

Coping after leaving camhs

It's natural to have mixed feelings about leaving CAMHS, and it's okay if you don't feel ready. Coming to the end of something where you've talked about things you've never spoken about with anyone can be hard. You might also be worried about going it alone or feel anxious about things changing. 

Your therapist or CAMHS worker should help prepare you for leaving so that it's easier for you when the time comes. It can help to think about how you want to say goodbye and to acknowledge everything you've been through and achieved with CAMHS so you feel ready.

If you feel you've been discharged too early, it's important to let your CAMHS worker know. It can help to tell them your worries about ending and that you feel you still need support. Sometimes you may need to talk to someone else, like a CAMHS service manager.

You can also ask your CAMHS worker about other places to get support after leaving. Remember our Childline counsellors are always here for you if you need to talk.