Children and young people can find it hard to talk about how they're feeling and the diculties they’re having.

This might be because they don’t want to cause worry or upset, or they feel it could cause trouble. They may feel embarrassed or believe that telling someone might only cause them more pain. For some, it may simply be that they don’t know how to put into words what it is that they're feeling.

There are often signs that a child may be having a difficult time with their mental health. For example you might notice your child is:

  • Falling behind at school or college, or refusing to go
  • Being more aggressive, disruptive or challenging in their behaviour.

Or they may be displaying more inward behaviour, such as being:

  • Quieter, less communicative
  • More anxious
  • Depressed
  • Less social, not mixing with friends
  • Withdrawn, perhaps not eating.

Having someone to listen is all the help that some children might need, but if you feel that this isn’t enough and your child’s worries are starting to get in the way of their lives, then it’s important that you get a second opinion.

Their doctor, school nurse or social worker can advise as to whether specialist support is needed. If they think CAMHS is the right service to provide this, they'll arrange a referral.

If you’re worried about your child, a good first step is to talk to a professional who knows them well. This might be a teacher, social worker or GP. They’ll be able to tell you about possible courses of action, and will often be able to refer your child direct to CAMHS should that prove necessary.

In many cases, referral to CAMHS will not be necessary and the professional will be able to offer advice or treatment, or tell you about other services that may be able to help you.

If your child's under 16 years old, you’ll be fully involved in their treatment and care. If your child's 16 years and over, we may agree to see them on their own and only write to them. These decisions will be based on what we know about them from the person who's referred them and what we've agreed in the assessment appointment.

We'd only need to breach this confidentiality if the young person told us that they, or someone else, were in danger or at risk. If this were the case, we would discuss this with them.

You and your child may be worried about what to expect when you first come to CAMHS and about who may be notified. We’re a confidential service, but there are some people we’ll need to speak to so we can provide the best care for your family. 

The person seeing you and your child will explain how, and with who, any information you give might be shared.

As we’re a health service, we need to let your child’s registered doctor know that you’ve been to see us and that we’re offering your child a care plan. We need to send copies of our letters to you (if your child is under 16 years old) and the person who's referred you.

We may also like to speak to other people in your child’s life, for example, teachers at school or health staff. This can help us build a better picture of how your child copes in different settings.

All parents and carers have a responsibility to safeguard and protect their children from abuse and neglect, by keeping them safe from anything that would negatively affect their health and wellbeing. 

Most parents bring up their children in a loving and nurturing environment, but all parents worry about their children and teenagers at times.

Life can be very stressful for all sorts of reasons and young people today have many external pressures and influences. It can be hard for parents to know everything that could be influencing or worrying their child.

When we’re unwell or are under a lot of stress, coping resources can get drained and everyday parenting challenges become very difficult. It might be more challenging to do tasks such as caring for a new baby, responding to the demands of an active toddler, getting children to school and coping with teenagers. 

Children and teenagers in families may need additional support at times; some will require active intervention to keep them safe. This is something CAMHS, and other agencies including social services, can help with. You’re not alone.

If you’re worried about your child, or indeed any child, you can talk to your GP, your health visitor or your school nurse. 

Worried about child neglect?

If you’re worried that a child may be abused or neglected, contact the free NSPCC helpline service on 0808 800 5000, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Read more about child safeguarding

Young Minds

Young Minds has a parents’ helpline which gives information and advice to adults worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of a child or young person up to the age of 25.

Telephone: 0808 802 5544 
Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4pm

Email: parents@youngminds.org.uk

Read the Young Minds parents survival guide

Rethink advice line

Rethink provides expert advice and information to people with mental health problems and those who care for them, as well as giving help to health professionals, employers and staff.

Telephone: 0300 5000 927
Monday to Friday 10am to 2pm

Email: info@rethink.org

Visit the Rethink website 

Mind information line

Mind provides confidential mental health information services to help people make informed choices. The information line gives information on types of mental distress, where to get help, drug treatments, alternative therapies and advocacy. Mind also has a network of nearly 200 local Mind associations providing local services.

Telephone: 0300 123 3393
Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Email: info@mind.org.uk

Visit the Mind website