The 30-second briefing: What are CAMHS?

In the next in her series explaining education issues and terminology, Sarah Wright tells you everything you need to know about child and adolescent mental health services

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What are CAMHS?

CAMHS stands for child and adolescent mental health services. This is an umbrella term for specialist NHS services that provide assessment and treatment for children with mental health issues. Each CAMHS team is made up of a range of practitioners, from nurses and psychiatrists through to play therapists and social workers.

That sounds like a really diverse team. Is there a need for so many levels of support?

Unfortunately, there is. Statistics from YoungMinds UK suggest that three children in every classroom have mental health disorders.

Child mental health can refer to all kinds of issues. It could be that a child faces daily struggles to cope with worries; they might have behavioural issues or that they have more complex health problems. Whatever the level of need, it is vital that the right services are in place to prioritise the wellbeing of students.

What links can I expect to have with CAMHS at school?

CAMHS services are regional, meaning that support services vary depending on locality. The links and connections with CAHMS will also be completely unique depending on the support the child in question needs. Teachers may need to work with the school’s SENDCO, liaise with parents and the other professionals involved in working with your pupil.

The idea is to provide a ‘joined-up’ approach to ensure children are getting every aspect of support they need.

Are the services effective?

A survey by the Association of School and College Leaders earlier this year found that 53 per cent of headteachers who had referred a pupil to CAMHS rated the effectiveness of the services as poor or very poor. That said, CAMHS does support almost a quarter of a million young people in England every month and there is a drive to improve services, with the government having pledged to put £250m more into improving CAMHS for each year of this parliament.

Where can I learn more?

Young Minds is an excellent starting point, as is the government’s Future in Mind report which outlines government proposals for improvements to mental health services. It’s also well worth reading the thoughts of the government’s former mental health champion, Natasha Devon.

Sarah Wright is a senior lecturer at Edge Hill University. She tweets as @Sarah__wright1

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