The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service is an NHS specialist service, provided by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust for young people aged 0-18 years and their families who are experiencing difficulties with their mental and emotional health. Many young people experience difficulties with their mental health such as anxiety, low mood, trauma, eating difficulties, plus many others which can impact on all aspects of life such as education, home life, hobbies, socialising and having fun.

It is important to know that everyone has mental health and that we can all experience tough times and this can cause our mental health to suffer. CAMHS work with young people, their families and other organisations, such as schools, to achieve the following:

  • Develop a shared understanding of your difficulties. For some young people at CAMHS, psychiatric diagnosis may be helpful.  Diagnosis raises lots of questions, so find out more here: www.mycamhschoices.org/category/aboutdiagnosis
  • Identify realistic goals or changes that you would like to make
  • Identify and build on your strengths
  • Improve self-esteem and confidence to cope with difficulties
  • Learn emotional coping techniques to help manage difficult or upsetting thoughts, feelings, urges or experiences
  • Empower you to identify, express and communicate your needs, to ensure that your health is supported at home and school, college or work and you feel confident in knowing where and how to get additional support if necessary

We cannot “cure” mental health difficulties or prevent difficulties ever coming back. Lots of things can impact on our mental health, some of which are beyond anyone’s control. Instead we work with you to help you learn how to manage your difficulties. In many cases overcoming them is absolutely possible. There may also be some difficulties or experiences which CAMHS are not able to provide support for. In these cases we will help you access appropriate help from other organisations and services such as drug and alcohol services and bereavement services.

We ask that you are willing and committed to attending the sessions that are offered, as well as trying and practising techniques until you find what works well for you. You will need to be prepared to work with us in this way so that you have the best chance of achieving your goals.

Overcoming difficulties also depends on how much an individual would like to change. Often change can be scary and many young people feel they don’t have the energy or the motivation to change or try different things. If you have made the step of asking for help and attending an assessment and are committed to making changes, we will work with you to help you achieve your goals and your recovery.

Anyone can help you get an appointment at Sussex CAMHS; you, your parents or carers, your teachers, a health professional (such as a school nurse or GP) or a social worker.

If you are experiencing difficulties, it is really important to talk to those around you so that they can support you with these and with getting the right help and support that you need.

We would recommend talking to CAMHS before making a referral so that we can offer advice and guidance and to decide whether CAMHS is the right service to meet your needs. CAMHS may also be able to offer recommendations about other services, organisations and things that may be helpful.

If after receiving a referral it is agreed that it would be helpful for Sussex CAMHS to offer an appointment, you will be given a date as soon as possible. Please be aware that there may be a wait for an appointment.

At your first appointment we’ll start with introductions and outline what will happen during the appointment. Your first appointment may be by telephone or face to face.

We’ll ask you to fill in some questionnaires. These help us to understand your strengths and any difficulties you might be experiencing.

Your clinician will also talk to you about confidentiality and consent to share information.

The aim of your first appointment is to find out what your goals are and what you would like to be different.

By the end of the appointment we will decide together the best way forward in order to help you reach your goals/recovery.

If you have any questions, worries or concerns please speak to your clinician – we’re all here to listen and to help. Your initial appointment is a chance to discuss what is currently going on for you.

Whatever situation you are in, we will always try to respect your wishes and your confidentiality, to listen to your preferences and to find a way forward that is helpful.

In most situations, it can be helpful for those you live with and who support you to be aware of some information to ensure that they are sensitive to your needs and can support you appropriately. We understand that there are lots of reasons why you might not want information shared with your parents/carers or with school. We will want to understand those reasons so that we can make sure you still receive the help and support you might need.

There are some situations when we will need to share information with others. If you or someone you know are being harmed or are at risk of harm, we have a duty to protect anyone from harm so we will find a way together to share information in an appropriate way. We will include you in all discussions as much as possible when sharing information is involved.
If you are worried about information being shared please speak to your clinician about this so you can agree a way forward together.

Following your first appointment, if it is agreed that Sussex Specialist CAMHS can help you a number of things may happen.

You may be offered a group to attend. We know that for some that groups with other people experiencing similar difficulties are the best support. These will be run by our experienced clinicians.

You may be offered a further period of assessment and intervention by one of our clinicians. They will contact you to arrange this.

This will depend on many factors including the type of difficulties you are experiencing and your goals. Some people coming to CAMHS will be offered one of our specialist therapies or interventions. We typically help people over an average of 10 to 12 meetings. You may be seen for fewer or more appointments. Sometimes people are also offered medication to help them feel better, although most young people coming to CAMHS do not require medication.

Sessions usually last between 50 minutes and one hour. Some sessions are longer depending on the therapy approach being used. You can use as much or as little of your session time as you want.

No, not everyone that comes to CAMHS is prescribed medication. Medication can be helpful for some young people depending on what difficulties they are experiencing.

If you have any questions or worries about medication, you can ask your clinician. You might also find useful information and guidance about psychiatric medication on the Young Minds website.

It’s the weekend or evening and CAMHS is closed - what do I do?

If there is an emergency and you or someone else is at risk of serious harm, call 999 immediately and tell anyone else who may be near you so they can help.

If you are in crisis and do not know what to do, click here.

If it is not an emergency, try to find someone that you can talk to; a parent/carer or family member, friend or partner, or call the helpline. If you already see someone at CAMHS, you can call after the weekend or the next day to speak with them or someone else in the team.

We know that when people finish their work with us and are discharged (closed) from our service, people can worry that they might not cope. It is important that if you are working with CAMHS that you complete a relapse prevention plan before you finish. It is important to keep this and follow the plan if you are struggling.

You can use the self-help pages of this website to remind yourself of the top tips to help you cope and access extra self-help information and advice. The most important thing to do is to let a parent/carer, teacher or trusted adult know that you are struggling so that they can support you.

Young people can sometimes be re-referred to CAMHS if this is agreed this would be the most helpful thing to do.

What do certain words mean? Read our glossary

Here are some of the words that you might come across on this website or when people are talking about CAMHS or mental health.

Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) – CAMHS provides specialist diagnostic assessments for specific age groups and provides support for those with moderate-severe mental health problems and ASC. Support for people with ASC is provided as part of the local offer from schools, colleges, voluntary organisations and the local authority.

Assessment – An assessment is a chance for CAMHS workers to ask questions which will help us to understand your current situation and the difficulties you are experiencing, as well as finding out about what changes you would like to make.

Behaviour – Behaviour means how we act and respond to things.

Care plan – A care plan is the agreement that you make with your CAMHS worker about what steps will help you to work towards your goals and the changes you’d like to make. Care plans will be reviewed often and can change depending on your needs and goals.

Clinician – Clinician is a name for someone who works at CAMHS directly with young people and their families. They might also be called a CAMHS worker.

CPA – A CPA stands for Care Programme Approach and is a meeting between you and your CAMHS worker, plus anyone else involved in supporting you, to agree your care plan.

Consent – Consent means permission or an agreement for something to happen. It is important that CAMHS understand what you agree to when we are working with you. Your CAMHS worker will explain and go through this with you.

Confidentiality – Confidentiality means keeping information about you private. There will be different types of confidentiality and your CAMHS worker will explain and go through this with you.

Discharge – Discharge means that it has been agreed between you and your CAMHS worker that your work with CAMHS has come to an end and you no longer need to come for appointments.

Duty Service – This is when CAMHS is open and a qualified CAMHS worker is able to offer information or advice.

Emotion – Emotion is another word for feelings. We all experience a range of feelings such as happiness, worry, sadness and anger.

Intervention – Intervention means treatment. There are many different types of interventions or treatments that CAMHS offer.

Medication – Medication may be tablets or liquids prescribed by a doctor (or psychiatrist) to help with different difficulties. For more information about medication go to www.choiceandmedication.org/sussex or www.headmeds.org.uk

Mental Health – Everyone has mental health. Mental health is about our capacity to get on with our lives, develop relationships and progress in line with our preferences.

Mental Illness or Disorder – Mental illness can impact on how someone thinks feels and acts. This might have an impact on how people cope with some or all aspects of their life (such as school or college, friendships, doing activities). Mental illness can happen to anyone at any time.

Physical Health Assessment – Some young people need to have their physical health checked. The types of checks we might do are; checking weight and height, blood pressure and temperature.

Referral – A referral is the way in which key information about a young person is given to CAMHS. This information will include personal details (like your date of birth), contact details and details of the difficulties you are having.

Risk Assessment – A risk assessment is a process of identifying situations or factors which might cause harm to you or to someone else. A risk assessment will also include things, people, situations or other factors which reduce or prevent risks or a crisis from happening. You, your CAMHS worker and anyone else involved in caring or supporting you will be involved in thinking about risk to make sure you are as safe as possible.

Routine Outcome Measures – When you come to CAMHS you will be asked to complete questionnaires about your thoughts, feelings and difficulties. These questionnaires are called ‘routine outcome measures’ and they help you, your family and your CAMHS worker check the progress you are making.