Attending Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
We tell you what to expect at your first appointment
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
CAMHS stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and is a free service that helps children and young people, up to age 18 years of age with moderate to severe mental health difficulties. Not everyone with a mental health difficulty will be referred to CAMHS as it’xs usually for people who have ongoing mental health difficulties. Check out our article on affordable community mental health services.
How do I get referred to CAMHS?
To attend CAMHS you must be referred by a health professional such as your GP, social worker or psychologist. The waiting list to access CAMHS can sometimes take a couple of months or longer to attend the service, with urgent cases being given priority.
Who works in CAMHS?
Lots of people trained in mental health work in CAMHS, and come together to form a multi-disciplinary team. A multidisciplinary team is basically a group of health care workers who have different disciplines or professions ( e.g. Psychiatrists, Social Workers, etc.), each providing specific services to the young person and their family.
Some of the professionals you might see include:
- Social Workers
- Family Therapists,
- Community Mental Health Nurses
- Occupational Therapists
- Child Care Leaders
- Speech and Language Therapists
What can I expect from my first appointment?
Many people who attend CAMHS for their first appointment may feel anxious about attending the service. This is perfectly normal and the mental health professional working with you will be aware of this possibility. The staff at CAMHS are used to working with lots of young people, so will try to explain things as much as they can so you understand what is happening. If you are nervous or don’t understand something be sure to let them know. CAMHS usually invite both the you and your parent/guardian to attend the first appointment. You will meet one or more members of the CAMHS team.
You will be asked about what is going on for you and about any difficulties you are experiencing your home life, your school life and your relationships with your family and friends. You may be asked a lot of questions at first this is to allow the mental health professional to get a good idea of what your life is like, and allow them to decide the best way to help you. You may be asked to work with the professional to come up with a contract and a plan around your care. If you are attending CAMHS chances are that you have been struggling with mental health difficulties for a while, and it may be a huge relief to actually get to talk to someone about what has been going on.
How long will I need to attend CAMHS for?
This all depends on the severity of your difficulties, and the type of help that you need. Sometimes people might have to attend for a couple of weeks or longer.
What about my confidentiality?
Generally the stuff that you discuss with members of the CAMHS team will remain confidential within the team. However, if any member of the CAMHS team is worried about your safety or feels that you may hurt yourself or someone else, they may have to discuss their concerns with your parent/ guardian. If you are worried about confidentiality feel free to discuss it with the CAMHS team so they can explain their policy with you.