- Sarah’s Story
- James’s story
What are ‘Mental Health’ problems?
Mental Health is to do with how we feel inside, and whether we can cope with how we feel. Everybody has mental health, like everybody has physical health.
If you hurt your leg playing sport, you might need to go to see someone who will help give you the right treatment to get your physical health back. It is the same with your emotions (feelings), or mental health. If you start struggling with your emotions, you might need to go and see someone who can offer you help to get you feeling good again.
Doesn’t having mental health problems mean someone is ‘crazy’, or ‘a psycho’?
No – Mental Health is to do with how we feel inside, and whether we can cope with how we feel. The young people who come to CAMHS are normal young people who are having trouble with their emotions. Don’t forget, everybody has mental health, like everybody has physical health.
Although we don’t always talk about it a lot – it is actually really common to have trouble managing your emotions at some point in your life. Lots of different things can affect mental health when you are young, like stress at school, bullying, problems with friends, trouble in your family, etc.
Young people come to see us for all kinds of different reasons. Some come because they are having problems with their mood – feeling low or depressed. Some are feeling so bad that they are thinking about hurting themselves, or are self-harming. Others come because they are having trouble coping with worries or anxiety. Sometimes this anxiety has got so bad that it is affecting everyday things, like being able to sleep properly, to enjoy going to school, or spending time with friends.
Sometimes people are having strange experiences they cannot understand, like hearing voices. Others come because something bad has happened in their life, and they are having problems coping with memories of this, or coping with how they feel now. Some young people are having a really hard time because of difficulties in their family. Or they are struggling with an eating problem. Some young people come for special assessments, to find out if they have Autistic Spectrum Disorder, or ADHD.
We try to get to know each young person who is referred to our service, to work out what kind of things you are finding difficult. Every young person is different, but you will never be the only young person feeling like this. Other people will have come to CAMHS with the same worries before, and the CAMHS workers you get to know will try to work out what kind of help will suit you best.
If you think that you need help right away, we would advise that you try to see your family doctor (GP) for an emergency appointment. Your GP can contact CAMHS to ask for an urgent assessment if needed. If your GP surgery is closed, you can contact the local out of hours GP (028 383 99201). If you are seriously thinking about harming yourself or mental health issues are overwhelming you so that you do not feel safe, you also have the option of going to the Emergency Department at Craigavon Area Hospital or Daisy Hill Hospital. Once the hospital has assessed whether you are medically well enough to leave hospital (sometimes called fit for discharge), they may ask someone from CAMHS to meet you for a Mental Health Risk Assessment. This is either done at the hospital, or at one of the CAMHS clinics.
When any young person comes to CAMHS for the first time, we will do an assessment, which helps us to get to know you, and to work out if CAMHS can help. Because lots of different people work in CAMHS, there are different options for help, including:
- 1:1 appointments with your CAMHS worker
- Special talking therapies, like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or CBT.
- Family therapy
CAMHS staff are organised into different teams:
i-CAMHS: this is an infant mental health service, which is for parents of babies and toddlers aged 0-3 years
Tier 2 'just ask': for children and young people up to 18 with mild, or less complicated problems.
Tier 3 CAMHS: for children and young people up to 18 whose problems are a bit more complicated and might need the help of more than one CAMHS worker.
Eating Disorders Team: for 10-18 year old young people who have serious issues to do with eating, such as anorexia or bulimia.
Substance Misuse Practitioner: for young people who have a significant substance misuse problem alongside a mental or emotional health difficulties.
Community Intensive Intervention Service: for young people who require intensive short-term work to prevent a hospital admission, or to help quicker discharge from hospital.
Hospital Liaison Service: for young people who need CAMHS assessment after going to hospital because of mental health problems, self-harm or feeling suicidal.
Supporting Carers: for long term foster carers who need help understanding and supporting the young people they are fostering.
Young Person’s Partnership/CAMHS project – for young people with mental health issues, who also have parents who also have difficulties with mental health, drugs or alcohol.
Disabled Children and Young People’s Participation Project/CAMHS project – for Children and young people with physical and sensory disabilities.
In life we all have ups and downs in how we feel. It is quite normal to feel upset after something bad happens – like if someone close to you dies. It’s also normal to feel a bit worried if you have lots of work at school, or exams coming up soon. Sometimes these feelings are really strong, and start getting in the way of stuff in your life – like enjoying time with your mates, being able to get a good night’s sleep, or doing okay at school. If you notice that you are feeling sad, or worried, or stressed most of the time, or it is hard to cope with how you are feeling, then it might be worth talking to someone about this.
It’s not always easy to talk about your private feelings. You might have seen the advert on TV where a man takes off his happy mask at the end of the day, which has been hiding him feeling depressed inside. Sometimes we all do this – laughing along with your mates, when really you are not feeling happy at all. Or pretending you don’t care about your exams in school, when actually you couldn’t sleep last night because you were so worried about everything. Talking to someone is the first step. This might be your parents, an older sibling, a teacher at school, your doctor, someone at church, at your youth club, or even calling a helpline like Lifeline.
Most young people who come to see us have talked to their family about their problems, and then gone to see their family doctor (General Practitioner, or GP). Your GP can then write a letter to tell us a bit about you. We will send you a letter inviting you for a first meeting, sometimes called an assessment.
When young people come for their first appointment in CAMHS, they often come with a parent or carer, especially if they are under 16. At your first appointment you will meet either one or two people who work in CAMHS. They will be able to tell you more about the service and answer any questions you have. The first appointment is a time for us to start getting to know you, what your life is like and whether there are any problems that we might be able to help with.
Lots of young people have told us that they were really nervous when they first came to CAMHS. Some people didn’t really want to come, but were brought by their parents. Some people worried about what it would be like, and what would happen during their appointment. Most people feel much better once they meet their CAMHS worker, and realise that lots of other normal young people come for help in CAMHS too.
Who will I see in CAMHS?
At your first appointment, you will normally meet one or two CAMHS workers. Lots of different people work in CAMHS, but everyone is working towards the same goal: to help children and young people who are having mental health problems.
Who’s who in CAMHS?
A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has also done special training in working with children and young people who have mental health problems. The Psychiatrists in a CAMHS team can advise about whether medication is right for you, and check whether any medication you take is helping.
Clinical Psychologists have special training in how to understand and treat people who are having difficulties with feelings, thinking and behaviour. They are trained in different talking therapies and also do assessments of thinking and learning ability.
Nurses who work in CAMHS have been specially trained in mental health. Sometimes these Nurses are called Specialist Mental Health Practitioners.
Social workers in CAMHS often have special training which allows them to help children and families needing extra support. CAMHS social workers do different work to the social workers that work in Social Services in Child Protection.
However, it is important to know that everybody working in CAMHS needs to do their bit to make sure the children and young people that come to see us are safe.
Family therapists have had special training to work with children, young people, and their families together, to try and help families think about how to overcome their problems together. Family therapy can be challenging, but in their feedback after therapy, families tell us that it is very useful. Click here to see some of the comments made by previous families.
Primary Mental Health Worker
Primary mental health workers in CAMHS are usually social workers or nurses who have gone on to work with young people who have mental health problems. Often Primary Mental Health Workers have done training in different approaches to helping young people with emotional problems.
Substance Misuse Practitioner
Our CAMHS substance misuse worker offers support to children and young people under 18 years of age who have a significant substance misuse problem, alongside a mental/ emotional health difficulty. Children and young people are offered advice and support to try to help them understand their drug or alcohol use, and help them to set goals to reduce or stop using alcohol and drugs.
Clinical Referral Coordinators
CAMHS referral coordinators are usually social workers or nurses. They help to process all the requests we get for young people to be seen in CAMHS. The referral coordinator will help to work out what part of the service is right for you.
Administrators help keep the CAMHS service running smoothly! They will send out letters about your appointment, answer the phone if you call the clinic, and will probably be the first person you see when you arrive for your appointment. They will tell you where to wait, and will tell your CAMHS worker that you have arrived.
Generally, the only people who will know you’re attending CAMHS are the person who asked us to see you (eg your Doctor) and, in most cases, your family or carers. Keeping your information private is very important to a service like CAMHS. We have rules about how this is done, called a ‘Confidentiality Policy’. At your first appointment there will be time to talk more about this, and to ask questions if anything is not clear.
Confused about CAMHS? A to Z
We know that in CAMHS we can sometimes use lots of complicated words that can be difficult to understand. Or you might have heard of a mental health problem, but not really know what it means. We have put together a CAMHS AtoZ, which tries to explain some common words or terms we use. If you still have questions, you can always ask your CAMHS worker for more information. Click on our A to Z link for some good information
Another helpful website for young people is www.youngminds.org.uk
Get involved & Give us feedback
In CAMHS, we want young people who have used our service to get involved and tell us what it was like coming to CAMHS. Our users talk to us about their experiences, and help us plan how we change the service for the better. Your own experience might have been good, or bad – either way, if you have something to say, we want to hear it! Our user group is one way of getting involved. Talk to your CAMHS worker if you want to know more: