Children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are made up of specialist teams offering assessment and treatment to children and young people up to age 18 who have emotional, behavioural or mental health problems.
Who we are
We are part of the National Health Service (NHS) and provide services across the South East. We help children and young people and their families and carers when someone is experiencing emotional wellbeing or mental health difficulties.
We are specially trained to help you with things like the thoughts inside your head, the way you are feeling and the way you are behaving. Thoughts, feelings and behaviours affect each other and we will help you understand how and why.
Some of our teams focus on working with particular groups of young people including those with learning disabilities or who are looked after.
We are asked to see people when someone is worried that they are finding things more difficult than usual.
The person who is worried about you may be a parent or carer, teacher, doctor, or someone else who knows you well. Being asked to help you is often called a referral. Don’t worry if you’ve been referred, it just means we are offering you extra support.
Before your first visit you, or the person who is worried about you, will have made a referral in a letter or on one of our referral forms. This is so we know a bit about you and the difficulties you are experiencing.
Because there are lots of people who need our help, you may have to wait a short time before you are offered an appointment. We try to see people within four weeks of receiving the referral. How long you have to wait will depend on how many people we’re seeing in your area.
If we can help you we will contact you and ask you to come to see us at one of our clinics for what we call a choice appointment. If you would prefer to see us somewhere else, like at school, doctor’s surgery, or location that’s easy for you to get to, we can arrange this.
The first meeting is called a choice appointment. During this appointment we will ask you questions about what is happening in your life and how you are feeling.
Some questions are to make sure you are safe whilst others will be about your specific difficulties. Choice appointments are a ‘two-way discussion’, which means it is not just about us asking you questions but also a chance for you to ask us things and talk about your worries.
Your appointment will last between 45 minutes and one hour.
It will include you, people who work for us and members of your family or carers. If you would like to bring anyone else, you can.
You might find it useful to write things down about how you feel and what you'd like to know before your appointment, so you don't forget anything.
At the end of your choice appointment you should feel you have enough information to choose what help you would like from us. Don't worry if you don't feel ready, we can decide based on what you've told us and then when you feel ready to make any changes to the plan, you can.
If we agree that we are not the best people to help you, we will discuss the other options available to you. This could be a local youth service, counselling organisation, or group.
If we can help you further, you will be offered partnership appointments, where we will work together to help you feel better over a period of time.
We typically help people over an average of seven to eight meetings. You may be seen for fewer or more appointments. Sometimes people are also offered medication to help them feel better.
Spending time at one of our hospitals
Some people experience such a level of distress that they need to spend some time being closely supported by specially trained workers away from their home. This is often at a hospital built just for children and young people where you can stay overnight while you get better.
Information discussed within sessions is treated as confidential. However, if we are concerned about the safety of a child or young person, we will share this information with other professionals as part of the Child Protection and Safeguarding policy. If this is the case we will always try to inform those involved of what we are doing.