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ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD can affect Attention (not being able to focus, getting distracted, being disorganised), Hyperactivity (always being on the go, fidgeting and restless) and Impulsivity (doing things without thinking, interrupting other people and getting into trouble). The Young Minds website has more information on ADHD


Adjustment means getting used to something being different. Young people have to get used to a lot of different changes in their life – growing up, changing schools, moving house. Some young people also have to deal with parents separating or friends moving away. This kind of change can make things a bit difficult for a while. Normally, young people manage to get used to the change without too much trouble, even if it takes a little while to get used to things. Sometimes changes in our lives are really hard to cope with. Talk to an adult you trust if you are finding it hard to cope with the changes in your life. Getting support from people around you can really help when changes are happening in your life. If you have been talking about how you feel, and things are not getting better, your parents might decide that you need support from somewhere like CAMHS.


Adolescence is the time when a young person develops into an adult. Everybody is different, but it is something that happens over many years, somewhere between 11 and 20. Adolescence can be an exciting time, but it can also be a tough time, when young people are coping with lots of changes: body changes, moving to secondary school, friendships changing, learning to be independent from parents. Often during adolescence young people worry about fitting in, and whether they are ‘normal’. Lots of young people talk to us about feeling under peer pressure. The Kids Health website has lots of information about growing up, for children and teenagers.

There is more information about adolescence and mental health on the Young Minds website – click here

Alcohol Misuse

Many young people experiment with alcohol, for different reasons. Some young people try alcohol because their friends suggest it, or because they think it will be fun to drink. Some use alcohol because they want to try and escape from difficult feelings. Abusing (or using too much) alcohol can be very dangerous, as it makes it harder to stay safe, and make good decisions. Alcohol can make your mood worse, and can make it more likely that a person will self-harm. It is important to know that alcohol is also a poison, and can cause serious damage to your liver. There is more information about alcohol on the Talk to Frank website www.talktofrank.com


It’s normal to feel angry sometimes, especially if you feel someone has done you wrong, or something is not fair. Although anger is a normal emotion, it can start to cause you problems if it is not expressed in the right way. Just feeling angry does not cause problems, but sometimes when young people are very angry they lash out with words or actions. It’s not ok to hurt people or damage property because of your anger. Sometimes young people come to CAMHS to try and understand what is making them so angry, and work out safe ways of dealing with how they feel.
The Young Minds website has more information on Anger issues, ideas for coping with Anger and a podcast describing one young person’s difficulties with anger:

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder where people try to keep their weight unhealthily low, usually by really cutting down on what they eat. It can be dangerous to have a very low weight, so this is a condition that needs to be taken seriously. Often young people with Anorexia worry that they are fat, but actually they are under the healthy weight range for their age. The Beat website has lots of information about eating disorders and offers a helpline/youthline www.b-eat.co.uk


There are lots of different words for describing anxiety – worry, fears, stresses, concerns. When people have anxiety they may experience a lot of different feelings in their body and mind: racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, fuzzy thinking, sweaty palms, feeling shaky, difficulty breathing – and more! Anxiety can be an unpleasant experience, but it is not harmful and will not damage, or kill you. Sometimes anxiety is normal, like when you are about to sit an exam. Anxiety can sometimes be helpful, as it gets us going, like giving you motivation to finish your school work on time! If anxiety gets out of control, it can stop you from enjoying life. Sometimes young people come to see us in CAMHS because their anxiety has got so big that it is stopping them sleeping well at night, or stopping them from being able to go to school or enjoy seeing friends. The good news is that there are lots of different ways of helping young people to cope with anxiety.

Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger syndrome is a form of Autism, also known as Autistic Spectrum Disorder or ASD. Asperger’s is a condition that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to other people. People with Asperger’s can find it difficult to make friends and understand other people.
Coming Soon! The Southern Trust is working on an Autism website which will provide lots of helpful information about local services.


Your first appointment in CAMHS is called an assessment. You will meet either one or two people who work in CAMHS who can 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 what kind of problems you are having at the moment. Sometimes it takes a few appointments to get to know you well. Whilst we are getting to know you, we might ask for your permission to contact school, or other services that you go to, so that we can find out a bit more about your life. By the end of an assessment, we want to have decided with you whether CAMHS is the right place for you to get help, and what kind of help you need.


When we talk about ‘attachment’, we are talking about the most important relationships in our lives, especially the relationships that develop between a young person and their parent or carer. All humans need relationships with others to survive. We were born to live in relationships with others. As babies, we all need a carer to help us stay safe, and to help us develop the belief that we are safe, capable and loved. These beliefs help us to become a healthy, happy person. As we grow up, other relationships will be important too, like relationships with teachers, or other important people in our life. The relationships we have will help to shape our development, and will affect how we feel. Strong attachment relationships also help us to build our resilience and cope with difficult times in our lives.


Autism is a life-long condition that affects how a person communicates with others, how they understand other people, and the world around them. Autism is a condition which affects each person differently, so each young person with Autism will have different strengths, and will face different challenges. The good news is that there is lots of support available for young people diagnosed with Autism. In the Southern Trust, we have an Autism team who can provide support for young people with autism. The Southern Trust Autism Service website will be launched soon.

There is also good information on the National Autistic Society website www.autism.org.uk, and Autism NI www.autismni.org.


When we talk about a bereavement, we mean that somebody close to you has died. This can be a really difficult time, when it is normal to feel very upset, and when feelings can be very strong and confusing. There is lots of information about bereavement on the Winston’s Wish website, both for parents and young people. www.winstonswish.org.uk

Bipolar Disorder

It is normal for people’s mood to change slightly day to day. Lots of teenagers tell us that their feelings are confusing as they feel sad or down on some days, and really happy or ‘hyper’ on other days. Bipolar is a mental health condition where people have extreme feelings of happiness (this is sometimes called ‘mania’) and also experience extreme feelings of sadness (this is known as ‘depression’). This is not the same as the ups and downs that every young person faces. Bipolar used to be called manic-depression. The Young Minds website has more information on this condition: http://www.youngminds.org.uk/for_children_young_people/whats_worrying_you/bipolar_disorder

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Whilst you are growing up, your body changes a lot and it is really common for young people to feel unsure about whether they like how they look. People with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) have very strong and distressing feelings about their appearance, thinking that something is wrong with how they look. People with BDD worry about this so much that they imagine the problem with how they look is much worse than it is in real life. BDD can really get in the way of life as people avoid doing things because of it, spend time obsessing about it and checking how their body looks, and trying to avoid letting people see that part of their body. There is more information about BDD on the KidsHealth website:

Body Image

Body image is all about how you feel about the way you look. This is not always an easy issue for young people, as this is a time when your body is changing rapidly. During adolescence, people tend to make more comparisons between how they look, and how their friends look. This can really affect body image, as some young people worry about whether their body is normal, and give themselves a hard time about how they look. There is more information about body image, including tips for improving body image on the KidsHealth Website

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a way of describing a group of problems that usually start in late adolescence or early adulthood. People with BPD struggle to manage their emotions, to manage their relationships with other people, and may struggle with acting without thinking, like self-harming when feeling very upset. This is different to the troubles that many adolescents have with learning how to deal with their feelings and also deal with relationships. People with BPD continue to have difficulties in these areas well into adulthood, which can cause a lot of distress.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is a condition where people struggle to keep to a healthy, balanced eating pattern. Many people with Bulimia will binge eat (eating a very large amount of food at one time), will often feel bad about this afterwards. They might then go on to find unhealthy ways of trying to get rid of this food, or make up for the food they have eaten, e.g. by being sick or exercising lots. Things like making yourself sick after binge eating is called ‘purging’. The Beat website has lots of information about eating disorders and offers a helpline/youthline www.b-eat.co.uk


Bullying is when someone does something deliberately to hurt, upset or threaten you. Lots of young people talk about being bullied, which can be really difficult to deal with and make you feel very upset or low in confidence. Bullying can take lots of different forms, but includes name calling, spreading rumours, uploading upsetting photos or nasty comments onto websites like facebook, deliberately leaving people out. It is important that bullying is taken seriously. No one has the right to hurt you or make you feel bad. If you are being bullied, talk to someone in your life who can help you work out what to do next, and how to keep safe. The NI direct website has advice about dealing with bullying www.nidirect.gov.uk/index/information-and-services/parents/your-childs-health-and-safety/common-parental-concerns/dealing-with-bullying.htm


CAMHS stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. This is a place where children and young people between 0-18 years can come for help with emotional and mental health issues.

Carer’s Assessment

All adults looking after young people who come to CAMHS have the right to a Carer’s Assessment. You are a Carer if you regularly provide, or intend to provide, a substantial amount of care for a child/young person attending the CAMHS team. A carer’s assessment is not a test of parenting. It is an opportunity to focus on how caring impacts on you, your lifestyle and family life. Talk to CAMHS if you would like to know more about this service. Link to leaflet.

Click to view A Carer’s Guide to Carer’s Assessment leaflet

Chronic Health Problems

In CAMHS we sometimes work with young people who are living with chronic health problems. Some examples of chronic health problems are diabetes, epilepsy, chronic pain and chronic fatigue, also known as ME. Sometimes alongside these physical health problems, young people experience emotional difficulties such as anxiety or depression. And we know that our emotional health can also affect our physical health eg when people are very stressed, they can get headaches. If you come to CAMHS with a chronic health problem we will first get to know you through an assessment, and work out if we are the right service for you. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is one option for young people managing physical health problems, which often aims to help young people live well despite their health difficulties.

Clinical Psychologist in CAMHS

Clinical psychologists have special training in how to understand and treat people who are having difficulties with feelings, thinking and behaviour. Clinical Psychologists are trained in different ‘talking therapies’ and do not prescribe medication.

Cognitive Assessment

Sometimes clinical psychologists do special types of assessment to help us understand more about your learning ability, and what strengths and weaknesses you might have. This is called a cognitive assessment.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

CBT stands for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. This is type of talking therapy (or treatment) that looks at how your thoughts affects how you feel and behave. Research has shown that CBT is a good treatment for lots of different emotional problems, like depression, anxiety, OCD – and more! You can read more about CBT on the NHS choices website www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Cognitive-behavioural-therapy

Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder is a way of describing a range of serious behaviour and emotional problems. Often young people with conduct disorder have big problems with anger and aggression, and may struggle with responding appropriately to people in authority. Other antisocial behaviours may also be a problem such as lying, stealing, destroying property etc. The Royal College of Psychiatry website has more information on Conduct Disorder


When we talk about Confidentiality, we mean keeping your information private. In CAMHS it is very important that young people know that their information will be kept private, so that they can trust CAMHS and talk about their problems. Generally, only certain people need to know that you are coming to CAMHS, and what you talk about when you are here. This includes people like your GP/doctor, some other professionals that you are working with, and your parents if you are under 16. In CAMHS we will work hard to keep your information private, unless we are worried about your safety, or the safety of others. We will talk to you if we think we need to share some information about you with other people because of safety issues. When you first come to CAMHS, there will be the chance to talk more about confidentiality, and ask any questions that you might have.


Giving consent means giving your permission for something to happen. It is important that both young people and their parents give their consent for the work that is done in CAMHS. We would also ask for your consent before doing certain things, like contacting your school or referring you to another service. Getting your consent is really important because you have the right to be involved in your care, and to make choices about things that affect you. If you have to give your consent, or make a decision about something, we will try to help you by explaining things carefully, so that you can fully understand what you are agreeing to. It is often important for any decisions to be made with your parents, particularly if you are under 16 years.


When we have a problem, it is important to think of ways of dealing with the problem. This is sometimes called coping. Sometimes people talk about developing coping strategies, this means coming up with new ideas to help you deal with a problem.


Everybody feels a bit sad or ‘low’ sometimes, but for some people these feelings don’t go away and can start to affect how much they enjoy life. People suffering from depression feel very down and unhappy most of the time. They may lose interest in their hobbies, or seeing important people like friends and family. With depression, how a person feels begins to affect everyday things, like eating and sleeping. Sometimes when people feel very depressed, they begin to wonder if life is worth living. The good news is that there are lots of ways of helping people with depression so that they can begin to feel better about life again. If you think you might have depression, talk to someone you trust. They can help you work out whether you need to see your doctor, who can arrange for you to meet someone from CAMHS. There is more information about depression on the Young Minds website


When we talk about discharge, this means the point when you officially leave CAMHS. When a young person is discharged, a letter gets sent to their family doctor to tell them that we will not be working together any more. A discharge means that we will not be offering you any more appointments, unless someone like your family doctor writes to us in the future to say that they think you need more help from CAMHS.

Divorce or Separation

When parents separate, it can be a very upsetting and confusing time. If your parents chose not to live together any more, it might feel like your world has been turned upside down. Some young people feel very torn between their parents, and worry about how things will work out. This is a time when you may feel a lot more upset than normal, may have trouble sleeping, or might feel very angry towards your parents. It is important to remember that couples split up because something has gone seriously wrong with their relationship. It is not their children’s fault. The KidsHealth website has a section on dealing with divorce

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence refers to a lot of different behaviours between adults that cause hurt and upset to families. Domestic violence is not only physical violence, but also other nasty behaviours such as shouting, name-calling, breaking objects in the home, and making threats. Witnessing violence between people that you love can be very distressing and traumatic for children. People used to think that if children lived in a house with domestic violence but didn’t actually see the violence, then it would not affect them. We now know that this isn’t true, and that living in a house with domestic violence can be very stressful for young people, and cause them emotional difficulties that can last into later life. There is more information about domestic violence on the Childline website www.childline.org.uk/explore/homefamilies/pages/domesticviolence.aspx. Parents can get more information about dealing with domestic violence from organisations like the PSNI, Women’s Aid and Parenting NI.

Drug Misuse

Drugs act on our bodies to change the way we think, feel and behave. When we talk about drugs this can mean both legal and illegal drugs.

Legal drugs might mean the tablets given by your doctor to help you with a problem e.g. antibiotics for an infection. Other legal drugs that can impact upon our health are cigarettes, alcohol, and solvents (glue). There are also many ‘legal highs’ that people buy, such as ‘plant food’ and ‘bath salts’. Legal highs can work on the body in a similar way to illegal drugs. ‘Herbal highs’ are natural substances like herbs and seeds from plants, they are sometimes considered safer than pills or powder, but this can be very misleading as these herbal highs can also have a powerful effect on the body.

The most common illegal drugs are cannabis, E tablets (ecstasy), mephedrone, speed, cocaine and heroin. Both legal and illegal drugs can be addictive and cause serious harm to our health. There is more information about drugs and their potential side effects on the Talk to frank website www.talktofrank.com

Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are unhealthy patterns of eating, which can have a very serious impact on a person’s health. It is very dangerous to become seriously underweight because of eating too little. It is also very unhealthy to eat too much, or to find unhealthy ways of getting rid of food you have eaten, like taking laxatives or doing an unhealthy amount of exercise. When people develop an eating disorder, they lose the healthy balance in their eating behaviour. Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are examples of Eating Disorders. In CAMHS we have a special Eating Disorder Team who work with young people who are having difficulties with their eating patterns. Beat is a national charity that helps young people with eating disorders. Their website has lots of useful information and advice on how to deal with eating disorders www.b-eat.co.uk


Emotions are your feelings – sad, happy, low, angry, embarrassed, upset, excited, lonely – and many more! Part of growing up is learning how to deal with your emotions. As a child, it is easy to get overwhelmed by how you feel because you haven’t yet learnt ways of coping with your feelings. Hopefully your parents will help you with this – for example, helping you calm down when you are feeling very upset or angry. Sometimes how we feel starts to get in the way of everyday life, like being able to enjoy school or see your friends. If this happens, it might be a good idea to get some help with managing your emotions. The adults in your life might be able to help- your parents, a teacher at school, the school counsellor. Coming to CAMHS is also an option.


Eneuresis means having a problem with wetting yourself, either at night or during the day. Sometimes young people come to CAMHS for help with this, but in the Southern Trust there is also a nurse specialist service for young people who are having trouble staying dry. Your health visitor, school nurse or doctor will be able to put you in touch with the right service for this problem.


Encopresis means having a problem with controlling your bowels, so that poo comes out at times when you do not want it to. When young people get constipated (can’t go to the loo because their poo is too hard), it can be extra difficult to stop poo leaking out into your underwear. This can be a very embarrassing problem. Getting help with this might come from CAMHS, or one of the special nurses that work with young people who are having these problems. Your health visitor, school nurse or doctor will be able to put you in touch with the right service for this problem.

Family Therapy

Family therapy is one of the treatment options in CAMHS. Family therapy involves your family coming to sessions in CAMHS with you. During family therapy sessions everyone works together to find ways for the whole family to do things differently, so that problems can be overcome. Families have told us that coming to family therapy is hard work, but that it can be really helpful. Read below to see comments made by the families who have got help from Family Therapy:

I would recommend Family Therapy; it helped us get through a really difficult time. Hard at first but definitely worth persevering with because progress does not happen overnight

It was a life saver to us: we understand each other better and listen to each other – no blame and you were not forced to talk if you did not want to.

Feeling low

Everybody feels a bit sad or ‘low’ sometimes, especially if something upsetting has happened, like falling out with a friend, or doing badly on some schoolwork. If you are feeling low and this is not normal for you, try to help yourself by making sure you keep to a routine where you spend time with people you love and do things that you enjoy. Eating well, getting enough sleep and doing some exercise will also help to lift your mood. If your low mood doesn’t get better, or you start thinking that life is not worth living, it is very important that you share how you are feeling with an adult you trust. They can help you work out what to do next, which might involve seeing a doctor who can advise you if you need to see a service like CAMHS for some professional help.

Gender Identity Disorder

Gender Identity Disorder (GID) describes when a person is unhappy with the gender/sex that they were born. Gender is whether you are male or female – it is a part of who we are and for many young people, not something that they have to think about. However, for other people this is a very complicated and sensitive issue, because they feel like they are a different gender to the gender they were born e.g. born a girl but strongly feel and act like a boy. In Northern Ireland, there is a special service for young people with Gender Identity Disorder. In order to be referred to this service, young people need to come to CAMHS first. Talk to your parent/family doctor if this is something that you would like.

Good mental health

Mental Health is to do with how we feel inside, and whether we can cope with how we feel. The term Mental Health does not just relate to mental health problems. Everybody has mental health, like everybody has physical health. A person with good mental health is able to enjoy their life, feel good about themselves, form healthy relationships, learn well at school and work, deal with their feelings, and to cope when difficult things happen in their lives.
The Young Minds Website has lots of good ideas for looking after your mental health: www.youngminds.org.uk/for_children_young_people/better_mental_health


Grief is the word used to describe how we feel after someone has died. This can be a really difficult time, when it is normal to feel very sad and upset, and when feelings can be very strong and confusing. After someone has died, it is important to spend time with people you love, talk about how you are feeling, and to look after yourself by trying to eat and sleep as well as possible. There is lots of information on the Winston’s Wish website, both for parents and young people. www.winstonswish.org.uk


When people experience Hallucinations, it means that they see, hear or feel things that other people cannot. One type of hallucination is hearing voices. When young people experience hallucinations, they often worry that there is something really wrong with them. In actual fact, hallucinations can happen because of lots of different reasons – like stress, bullying, having no sleep, bereavement, drugs and alcohol – and more reasons. If you are having strange experiences, like hallucinations, and are worried about what this means, it is important to talk to someone you trust. You could also talk to your GP about being referred to CAMHS.

Hearing Voices

Hearing Voices is an example of a hallucination, which could happen to anyone. When young people hear voices, they often worry that there is something really wrong with them. In actual fact, hallucinations can happen because of lots of different reasons – like stress, bullying, having no sleep, bereavement, drugs and alcohol – and more reasons. Mental illness is only one of the reasons that people hear voices.

Although the organisation is based in London, there is a lot of good information about hearing voices on the Voice Collective website www.voicecollective.co.uk. If you are worried about hearing voices and are not already coming to CAMHS, talk to an adult you can trust, or see your family doctor.

Hidden harm

When we talk about Hidden Harm, we mean the problems facing children and young people who live with a parent who uses drugs/ alcohol, or has mental health problems. When a parent has these kinds of worries, this can cause a lot of stress or upset for their children. Sometimes these problems are kept secret in families, so that other people might not know how hard things can be at home. This is why we call situations like this ‘hidden’ harm. When things are difficult at home, you may need to talk to someone like a teacher, school counsellor or another adult you trust. Childline offers a free and confidential helpline 0800 11 11, and the option of talking to a counsellor online www.childline.org.uk

Infant Mental Health

Infant mental health is the way of describing the emotional wellbeing of children under 3. Research tells us that the early years of a child’s life are the most important, as the brain develops very quickly during this time. The environment a child lives in, and their relationship with their mum and dad (or carers) is very important. A baby forms an attachment, or bond, to their parent or carer as they are looked after. You can look in the 0-3yrs Infants Section of our website if you want to know more about Infant Mental Health, or look at some of the helpful links.


An intervention is something that is done to try and help a problem. In CAMHS, interventions are treatments that are offered to young people because the CAMHS team believe that this will help the young person or family to feel better. There are lots of different types of intervention, like talking therapy, medication, family therapy etc. In the health service (NHS), there are guidelines about what interventions are most helpful for each problem. These are called NICE guidelines as they are produced by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).


Medication is one of the treatment options that CAMHS can offer, if this is right for you. Only a doctor can decide if you need to take medication. Doctors in CAMHS are called Psychiatrists. They have special training in mental health, and working out whether medication is needed for young people having mental health problems. Medications sometimes come in tablet or liquid form. Your CAMHS psychiatrist will be able to talk to you about whether medication is right for you, and make sure you know all the right information about the medication. You can ask questions if you want to know more.


When we ask about mood during your CAMHS appointments, we are asking about how you feel. It is normal for your mood to change sometimes, depending on what is happening in your life. You might feel great and enjoy a very good mood on days where you get to spend time with your friends, or do something that you really enjoy. On other days, your mood might not be so good as you might be feeling stressed, or low. Sometimes to help us understand your mood a bit more, we ask you to rate your mood out of 10, when 10/10 would mean you are feeling great, and 0/10 is feeling as bad as it gets.

NICE Guidelines

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) produces advice to help services to work out what the best type of treatment is for each problem. NICE writes a special paper about each problem (eg depression in children and young people) which describes the treatments that research has shown works best. The NICE guidelines are available online at www.nice.org.uk

Nurses in CAMHS

Nurses who work in CAMHS have often been specially trained in mental health or have done some training in ways of working with mental health problems. Sometimes these nurses have different job titles, like Senior Clinical Nurse Specialist, Mental Health Practitioners or Primary Mental Health Workers. Nurses in CAMHS are a little bit different to other nurses you might have met, like school nurses. They will be mainly focusing on your mental health, and what we can do to make you feel better.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD)

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. People with OCD have strong and upsetting thoughts (obsessions), which they might try to deal with by doing certain things (compulsions). For example, Sarah has OCD. Her obsession is that she thinks about germs and getting ill all the time. Because of these very strong thoughts, Sarah has started doing things differently – washing her hands for 30 minutes at a time. This hand-washing is a compulsion. The good news is that there are different treatments that can help young people who are struggling with OCD. This might be medication, or talking therapy like CBT. There is more information about OCD on the Young Minds website www.youngminds.org.uk/for_children_young_people/whats_worrying_you/obsessions_compulsions

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a way of describing when a young person develops a pattern of negative or ‘bad’ behaviour towards authority figures like teachers or parents. Children with ODD find it difficult to do what they are told. They might blame others for their mistakes, and lose their temper easily. It is important that young people get support to overcome these kinds of problems, or they may come up against big problems in later life, like getting in trouble with the PSNI. There is more information on behavioural problems on the Royal College of Psychiatrists website: www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/parentsandyouthinfo/parentscarers/behaviouralproblems.aspx

Parents have a very important role to play in helping young people overcome behaviour difficulties. Parenting NI runs specialist courses to support parents who are faced with difficult behaviours in their children and teenagers. More information can be found on their website www.parentingni.org/ or by calling the Parents Helpline on 0808 8010 722.


Panic is a very strong feeling of anxiety. This can come on without warning, and be quite scary if the person does not understand what is happening to them. You might have heard of the ‘fight or flight’ response which describes how your body reacts when under stress. Your body gets ready to fight a threat or run away from it. You can feel short of breath, feel your heart pounding, get sweaty and shaky, feel sick, and want to escape from the situation you are in. Some people feel so awful that they think they are dying, losing control or going crazy! The good news is that panic or extreme anxiety doesn’t harm you. It feels awful, but panic feelings do go away. Sometimes we can start to panic in certain situations, like in lifts, or in exams. If this happens to you, you might need to come to CAMHS to learn more about panic and to make sure that anxiety doesn’t get in the way of you enjoying life.

Personality Disorder

As we grow up, our own unique personalities develop – this makes us who we are. Our experiences in life help to shape our personality. Your personality does not normally change too much once you are an adult. Your personality helps you to get through life, and to form relationships. Sometimes, people develop a personality style that is really quite different to most other people. This may be because their personality style makes them think differently about other people and the world, and affects how they feel and behave. When someone’s personality causes lots of problems in day-to-day life, such as problems with relationships, problems managing their emotions, and problems with behaviour – we sometimes call this a Personality Disorder. There are different types of personality disorders. However, it is unusual for children and young people to be diagnosed with a Personality Disorder, as their personalities are still developing, and they are still learning to cope with life, and get on with other people.


A phobia is a really strong, intense fear about something. It is different to just not liking something, because a phobia causes a lot of anxiety. Phobias tend to get in the way of everyday life because people with phobias try and avoid being near whatever they are afraid of. For example, David doesn’t like the smell of dogs so when he goes to his granny’s house he asks if the dog can be put in the garden. But Sarah is really scared of dogs. She won’t go for a walk in the park incase she sees a dog, and won’t go to her friend Lucy’s house because she thinks the dog might be there. David doesn’t like dogs – but Sarah has a phobia of dogs. Phobias can really get in the way of everyday life. If being afraid of something is stopping you from being able to enjoy everyday life, speak to an adult you can trust. CAMHS will be able to help you overcome your phobia.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD is a condition that sometimes develops after a person has experienced a trauma (very frightening event). PTSD happens because a person’s brain has not been able to properly process what happened. There are lots of different problems that people with PTSD may have, such as not being able to stop thinking about what happened, having flashbacks (upsetting memories) and nightmares, feeling frightened and upset, feeling jumpy, problems eating and sleeping, being irritable, and trying to avoid being reminded of what happened. After a trauma, many people have some of these problems for a few weeks, whilst their brain is working through what happened to them. Often, these things then go away and the person begins to feel more normal again. When someone develops PTSD, the feelings do not go away, even after several weeks or months. The good news is that there is help for people with PTSD, so that the trauma does not carry on spoiling their life. If something very difficult has happened to you and you recognise any of these problems, talk to someone you can trust about getting some special help.

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. Primary Mental Health Workers work in different ways, sometimes doing one-to-one work with young people, group work, or giving talks in school. One of the groups run by Primary Mental Health Workers is with Artscare. You can see examples of the work done in these groups by looking in our Gallery.

Psychiatrists in CAMHS

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists are Doctors who have had extra training to work with children, adolescents and their families, to help with emotional and or mental health problems. Doctors work in the CAMHS team to work out what the problem is and what might be helpful in solving it. If a young person needs tablets or medicine to help with their problem the psychiatrist decides what medicine is best and checks if it is working.


‘Psychosis’ is a medical term that describes when someone has difficulty working out what is real and what is not. There are lots of reasons why this might happen, such as being under severe stress or after bereavement. People with psychosis might struggle with strong mistaken beliefs (delusions), strange experiences to do with seeing/hearing/feeling things (hallucinations) or severe difficulty thinking clearly (thought disorder). People are often very worried when they hear the word psychosis. However, help is available at CAMHS and there are good treatments for this problem including medication and talking therapy. Talk to your GP if you are worried about yourself, or someone you love. They will be able to work out whether you need to be seen by CAMHS.


Schizophrenia is the medical word to describe a mental health problem that affects how a person feels, behaves and thinks. There are broadly two different kinds of symptoms (signs of the problem), called positive and negative symptoms. ‘Positive symptoms’ are when people have unusual experiences such as hearing voices (a hallucination) and having strong, mistaken beliefs (delusions) eg the government is out to get me. People with schizophrenia can find it hard to think clearly, which can affect things like school and work. Negative symptoms of schizophrenia are things like having no interest in things, and having little energy. If you start having problems like this, it is a good idea to try and get help early. Talk to someone you trust and try and see your family doctor. There is more information for young people about schizophrenia on the Young Minds website www.youngminds.org.uk/for_children_young_people/whats_worrying_you/schizophrenia. The Mind website also has a useful section for concerned relatives www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/schizophrenia/what-can-friends-and-family-do/

School refusal

School refusal is the term used to describe children and young people who refuse to attend school. This is a complicated issue that can cause children and families a lot of upset. Some young people can stop attending school regularly due anxiety related to either being in school, or getting on in social situations in school. Other young people refuse to go to school because they prefer the life they have at home – with TV and x-box! Some young people are worried about being away from home, because their parents have difficulties such as mental health problems. The law says that all young people under the age of 16 must be in full-time education. If a lot of school is missed, families get referred to the Education Welfare System and parents can be taken to court. It is important that young people get an education, but also that they get to mix with other people their age. Being busy and active is also important for your mental health. If a young person is coming to CAMHS and an emotional problem is making it hard to go to school, we will work with you to overcome this. With hard work from you and your parents, it is possible to overcome your fear and get back into a school routine.

Selective Mutism

Young people who have selective mutism can talk normally in some situations, but find it really hard, or impossible to talk in other situations. Many children with selective mutism can talk fine to their family at home, but don’t talk once they are at school. Often anxiety stops them from being able to talk normally at school, even though they would really like to be able speak more. If there is a child that doesn’t speak in your class, it’s a good idea not to make a big deal out of this. The best thing to do is try to include them and make them feel welcome in your class whether they talk or not. Parents and teachers can get more information in the downloads section of the Selective Mutism Information and Research Association website www.smira.org.uk


We say someone has self-harmed if they have done something deliberately to hurt themselves, like scratch, bite, cut, burn or pick at themselves. Young people tell us that they sometimes begin to self-harm because they are finding life really stressful, and are finding it difficult to cope in other ways. Parents are often very worried about self-harm. Some young people tell us that self-harm is very different to wanting to kill themselves. Young people tell us that self-harm can sometimes be a way of coping with what is going on in their lives. However, self-harm can be very dangerous and it is important that people who are close to you know that you are finding life difficult. If you are self-harming, you should know that you are not alone. Many of the young people we see are doing some kind of self-harm. We hope that by getting help in CAMHS, it might be possible to find different ways of coping so that young people don’t need to keep self-harming. There is more information about self-harm on the Childline website www.childline.org.uk/Explore/Self-harm/Pages/about-self-harm.aspx

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety describes the upset that a child experiences when separating from their parents or carers. At points in development, this is very much normal. It is also common for some upset when children are getting used to leaving their parents to go into a new environment, like school.

Parents can read more about separation anxiety on the KidsHealth website

Sleep problems

Sleep is when our body and mind rests to prepare itself for the day ahead. Research has shown that without sleep, people get seriously unwell and find it very difficult to cope. There are lots of reasons why children and young people may develop sleeping problems. Very young children might find it upsetting to be apart from mum and dad at bedtime. Young people might get distracted by their phones or laptops, and not be able to fall asleep until very late. It is very important for children and young people to have a regular sleep routine. Often when young people are finding it hard to cope with their emotions, part of this is because they are not getting enough sleep. Problems like worry, depression and ADHD can also affect sleep. You can read more about sleep problems, and how to get a good bedtime routine on the Kidshealth website:

Social Workers in CAMHS

There are different types of social worker, but generally Social workers in CAMHS have had special training to help young people and families struggling with emotional and mental health problems. CAMHS social workers do different work to the social workers that work in Social Services and Child Protection.

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.


Stress is to do with pressures and demands we have in our life, and whether we think we can cope with all the things we need to do. To give an example – in one class, everybody gets the same homework. Mary knows she can get everything done in the time and so doesn’t feel stressed. Rosie knows that she won’t have time for the homework as she needs to visit granny in hospital and also has other coursework to do before tomorrow. Rosie feels very stressed and her mind is racing at all the things she needs to do. Whilst growing up, there are lots of things that can lead to stress or feeling under pressure. The TeensHealth website has a great section on stress and ways of coping in stressful situations: www.teenshealth.org/teen/stress_coping_center/stress_center.html. Talk to someone you trust if stress is really getting you down.


When we say something has a ‘stigma’, it means that we think there are negative or bad things associated (linked) with it. These things are not necessarily right or true. Sometimes people worry about the stigma attached to mental health problems. They worry that people will think bad things about them if they know that they are having problems, or find out that they are coming to CAMHS. The stigma attached to mental health problems is not right or true. We all have mental health, like we all have physical health. There should be no shame in getting help if you are struggling with your feelings, like there should be no shame in going to the Doctor because you are physically unwell.

Substance Misuse

When we talk about substance misuse, we are talking about people using drugs and alcohol. Please see the Alcohol misuse and Drug Misuse section of this A to Z for more information. The Talk to Frank Website is also useful www.talktofrank.com


People die in different ways. People can die from illness or in a serious accident. Suicide is when a person causes their own death. A person who ends their own life on purpose can have lots of reasons why they don’t want to go on living anymore. They can become focused on these reasons and forget that there are good things in their lives, that people love them and they will be missed. When people have thoughts about killing themselves, that doesn’t mean they are bad people, crazy or weak. It just means that they are having a very tough time and don’t think they can cope. The important thing to know is that these horrible thoughts can pass with time and the right support. CAMHS has worked with lots of young people who have considered suicide, but with the right help have gone on to have much happier lives. Talking about your problems can help you feel less alone and hopeless. It is very important to share your feelings with someone you trust.

If 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 problems 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. In a very serious situation, you also have the option of contacting the Emergency Services by calling 999.

Other useful crisis helplines:
• Childline 0800 1111
• Lifeline 08088088000
• Samaritans 08457 909090

Talking Therapy

Talking therapy is one of the treatment options that CAMHS offers. Talking therapy is about speaking to another person about the things in life that are hard for you, trying to work out why things are so hard, and working out new ways of coping with everything that is going on. Sometimes even though a young person has lots of friends and family, it is hard to talk about things that they are finding difficult. Young people tell us that it is good to have someone to come and talk to who is a bit separate from their friends and family. An example of a talking therapy is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) which has been shown to be very helpful for lots of mental health problems.


Tics are fast movements that you don’t have control over, like blinks, that can happen over and over again. Tics are common in children and can happen in up to 1 out of every 5 children at some stage in their childhood. Usually tics don’t cause too much of a problem and come and go, often going away completely within a year. Tics can get worse with stress, tiredness or boredom and tend to get a little better with concentration, distraction and exercise.


Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a tic disorder. Tics are sudden repetitive movements that you don’t have control over – like blinks. Repetitive means it happens over and over again. In Tourette Syndrome people make movements and noises that they have no control over. This includes things like blinking or screwing up the face, clearing the throat or shouting out words. To be diagnosed with Tourettes a person has to have these tics for at least a year, which began before the age of 18. It is important that the tics must not be caused by another medical condition like epilepsy, or any medication or drugs a person has taken. There is more information on the Tourettes Action website, including a guide for young people: www.tourettes-action.org.uk/storage/downloads/1375187561_Guide-for-young-people.pdf


When something really bad things happen to you, or in front of you, we call this a trauma. Mostly the world is a safe place. But sometimes young people come to us because they have seen something awful happen (like seeing a car accident, or someone getting beaten up) or because something horrible has happened to them (like being abused, or seeing someone they love getting really sick). Traumas can be difficult for young people to get their head around. Sometimes after a trauma people get upsetting memories popping into their head, and think about what happened a lot. After a trauma it might be difficult to concentrate, or to sleep normally. Some people talk about feeling really ‘jumpy’ and on edge. For most people, these kinds of problems go away within a couple of weeks. People that have difficulty for more than a month may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and should talk to someone they trust about getting special help with this.

User Involvement

In CAMHS we want to find ways of using feedback from the young people that use our service, so that we can try and make the service better for the future. There are lots of different projects for which we need young people’s feedback. For example, Young people were very important in helping to design this website, and helping us to work out what information should be included on the website. If you are working with CAMHS and would like to get involved in helping to improve our service, please contact:  camhs.users@southerntrust.hscni.net


Worry is a form of anxiety, when you feel uneasy or concerned about something. Often, when young people are worried, they find it hard to get the worrying thoughts out of their mind. Although worrying doesn’t feel very nice, it is not harmful or dangerous. Sometimes it makes sense to be a little bit worried about something – like if someone close to you is unwell. Some worries help us get motivated, like revising for exams. If your worries are getting so big that you can’t do all the normal things you’d like to be able to do, like sleeping well at night, seeing friends and going to school, it is worth talking to an adult you trust. Sometimes just talking to someone about the things you are worried about will make you feel better, or help you to work out what to do next. Some young people with worries do come to CAMHS to talk about how they are feeling. The good news is that there are lots of different ways of helping young people to cope with anxiety.

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