Introducing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

Specialist CAMHS (which stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) is the name given for the NHS service for young people (up to the age of 18 years) who need more help with their mental health.

Many young people experience difficulties from time to time and can access support through friends and family or services such as their GP, school nurse, school counsellors, on-line counselling (such as Tellmi) or mental health support teams in schools.

What does Specialist CAMHS help with?

When mental health difficulties are going on for some time and are impacting on all aspects of life such as education, home life, hobbies and interests, socialising and having fun, it may be that young people would benefit with getting help from a specialist service.

Examples of mental health difficulties that CAMHS supports young people with include:

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

  • Identify realistic goals or changes that you would like to make
  • Identify and build on your strengths
  • Learn emotional coping techniques to help manage difficult or upsetting thoughts, feelings, urges or experiences
  • Empower you to identify, express and communicate your needs, take responsibility for your health and wellbeing and feel confident in knowing where and how to get additional support if necessary
  • Use evidence-based approaches to treat or help you better manage your difficulties. This can include approaches such as cognitive behaviour therapy, systemic family therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, dialectical behaviour therapy etc…  and/or medication.
  • Assess and diagnose mental health and neurodevelopmental difficulties

If you would like a referral to CAMHS for neurodevelopmental difficulties (such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autistic Spectrum Disorder), you will need to ask your school or college to complete some forms for you. Once these forms are filled in, you can take these to your GP who can refer you to CAMHS.  The form you will need is below (please pick the right form for your age):

Referral Forms (Electronic versions):

Parent-Carer Questionnaire – ALL AGES 

School Questionnaire – SECONDARY SCHOOL 

Referral Forms (Manual versions):

Parent-Carer Questionnaire – ALL AGES

School Questionnaire – SECONDARY SCHOOL


CAMHS is made up of a number of specialist teams, who work with children, young people and their families in the community. Appointments are usually at one of the team bases but can sometimes be virtual or at your home or school.

The teams within CAMHS are:

Sometimes young people are struggling so much with their mental health that they need to be cared for, for a short period of time, in hospital for further support and this is known as an adolescent inpatient unit. Specialist CAMHS has a 15 bedded inpatient unit called the Beacon.


I have been referred to CAMHS, what should I expect?

CAMHS support is different depending on your needs. For example, you might only need a one-off appointment or assessment, or you might need ongoing care until you feel better and safe. Most of the time, you will be added to a waiting list for an initial assessment where these needs will be considered. Although this might sound scary, it’s just a chat so that the team can get to know you and make sure you’ll get the right support. It’s also a good chance for you to ask any questions.

If you’re under the age of 16, a parent or guardian might be invited to this assessment. If you’d prefer to see the team by yourself, let them know.

They can work with you on a one-to-one basis or in a group. It can be helpful to also include family members and to work alongside other people who know you well.


How to access support

Did you know you can request support for your own mental health?  If you feel you need support with your emotional wellbeing and mental health, you can complete an online form found here.  This is known as a self-referral. All self-referrals will be screened by a service called Triage and Navigation who decide which is the best service to help you. Services can include CAMHS Outpatients, Relate, Mental Health In School or Early Help.

The self-referral service cannot be used for all mental health conditions.  These will still need to be referred into by your GP.  For a list of the conditions and if you are able to self refer, click here.  This page will also give you lots of helpful advice, support and links to other useful websites.

There are lots of other  resources and services that can help you with your mental health created by CAMHS but if you feel you need more help by accessing specialist CAMHS, you will need a referral from a healthcare professional such as a nurse, school nurse or a GP. A referral will be made if they think that your difficulties require specialist support. If you’re accessing support from social care or a youth offending team, they might be able to refer you to CAMHS.

Did you know that you can text a school nurse if you need confidential support in a non-emergency?


Useful resources created by CAMHS:

Click here to see more useful resources created by CAMHS.


If you need urgent help for your mental health, you can call the Central Access Point (CAP) on 0808 800 3302 who have an 24 hours urgent mental health support line. You can also:

  • Speak to an adult friend or someone you can trust as soon as you can
  • If you are already seen by CAMHS and it is in office hours (9-5), call your CAMHS worker
  • Speak to your school nurse or social worker
  • Call your GP
  • Call 111