Understanding CAMHS - for young people

A guide on what CAMHS are, how to to access them and what to expect from your appointments.

What are CAMHS?

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are services that support young people with their mental health.

On this page when we talk about CAMHS, we are talking about the free services run by the NHS, sometimes called Specialist CAMHS

In some areas, your local CAMHS service may be called another name. If you’re not sure, you can ask at your doctors surgery.

 

On this page we have information on:

 

Who does CAMHS support?

CAMHS services generally support young people experiencing: 

  • sadness, low mood or depression
  • feelings of worry or anxiety
  • low confidence
  • problems with eating or your relationship with food
  • anger
  • problems sleeping
  • hearing voices or seeing things
  • thoughts about wanting to hurt yourself
  • difficult feelings after a traumatic event.

I started getting help from CAMHS when I was 16. I was worrying about everything and having panic attacks when I went to school.

 

What support and treatments do they offer?

Your CAMHS team can offer support and treatments, like:

  • talking therapies, to explore your feelings. This might be on your own with a therapist or with your family there too.
  • medication, to help you cope with how you feel.
  • staying in hospital, for treatment and support.

The type of help you get will be decided by your CAMHS team but you should be asked about what you would like and what you feel most comfortable with.

What is talking therapy?

Talking therapy, sometimes called counselling, is where you talk to a trained professional about your thoughts and feelings.

There are lots of different types of therapy. For some, you might just talk about how you feel, but there are also arts and play therapies where you might explore your feelings by doing something creative, like drawing or playing games.

You can talk to your CAMHS team about the types of therapy you might get and what you can expect.

I had talking therapy when I was 17 for 2 years. Placing random items in a sand pit and talking through them really helped me understand my emotions and the trauma I'd been through.

 

How can I get help from CAMHS?

How you get help from your local CAMHS service, might depend on where you live.  Most services have their own website where you can find out more information.

Normally you will need a referral from your doctor, but some services also accept referrals from schools, social workers, youth offending teams or yourself if you’re old enough.

How can I find my local service?

If you live in England, you can find your local CAMHS service, see what support they offer and find out how to get their help by using the NHS search tool. Or if you live in Wales, you can visit your Local Health Board website.

When CAMHS gets your referral they will contact you and your family, by phone or by sending you a letter, to give you an appointment or ask for more information about what you’re experiencing.

 

What if CAMHS won’t help me?

Sometimes after speaking to you and your parents or carers to find out what support you need, CAMHS may decide that it’s not the right service for you. This can be really upsetting and frustrating, especially if you've already waited a long time for your appointment and you're not getting the help you need.

If this happens, they should suggest other places you can go for support or things you can try that might help.

If you're struggling to get help from your local CAMHS service for any reason, you should speak to your doctor to find out what your options are and what other support you can get.

You can also read our guide on finding support, which has information about the other types of help you might find useful.

I was seen by CAMHS multiple times only to be told they can’t do anything because I seemed ok.

 

Will I have to wait for an appointment?

Sometimes if your local service is busy, you might have to wait a while for an appointment. This can be really upsetting and worrying, especially if you feel like things are getting worse.

It might help to:

  • speak to your doctor about other support you can try while you wait.
  • contact the CAMHS service to ask when you should get an appointment and if there is anything you can do while you wait.
  • explore other options for support, like help from charity organisations. See our page on finding support for more information.

 

What will happen in my first appointment?

In your first appointment, you will meet someone from your CAMHS team. They might ask you questions about:

  • how you’ve been feeling
  • problems at school or at home
  • relationships with your family and friends
  • things you enjoy doing
  • things you would like help with.

This is so they can understand how you’re feeling and whether their service is right for you. If it is, they will work together with you and your family to decide what kind of support might help.

To find out about the people who might work in your CAMHS team, Young Minds have information about the different professionals you might see and what they do.  

Questions to ask in your appointment

You can ask about anything you’re unsure of in your appointment. Having all of the information can make you feel more in control. It might help to ask:

  • What should I expect from CAMHS?
  • How many appointments will I get?
  • What treatments might I get?
  • How will it help me?
  • What do I do if I need urgent help?
  • Is there anything I can do to help myself?

 

Will they speak to my parents or carers?

Your CAMHS team normally talk to your parents or carers to understand more about you and your family, so they can help you in the best way they can. They might talk to them about what kind of help they could offer you and ask them to come along to appointments.

If you’re worried about your parents or carers coming to appointments with you or finding out what you’ve said, try to let your CAMHS team know and explain why this makes you uncomfortable. You can also ask them how much of what you say in your appointment stays between you and them.

 

How long will CAMHS support me for?

How long you're supported by CAMHS will be personal to you, but you can ask them for a guide at any time.

If you're offered therapy you might be given a set number of appointments. After you’ve had these, your CAMHS team will talk to you about how things are going and how you're feeling. This will help you both decide whether you still need their support.

CAMHS may also stop supporting you if you become too old for their service. In most places this is when you turn 18, but it can be earlier or later, depending on the service. See our guide on moving to adult services for more information.


Mental Health A-Z

Information and advice on a huge range of mental health topics

> Read our A-Z

Training

Helping you to better understand and support people with mental health problems

> Find out more

Special offers

Check out our promotional offers on print and digital booklets, for a limited time only

> Visit our shop today