Parent's and carer's questions
We know that when your child, or the child you care for, is coming to CAMHS, it can be a scary and confusing time. We asked Parents and carers, who have already had experience of our services, to tell us what their questions were. We hope that the answers below can help you.
If your question is not answered below- be sure to make a note of it and ask one of the professionals next time you see them.
The assessment is called a Choice appointment, it’s a one off appointment with the aim of developing a shared understanding of the difficulties your child has been referred for and to plan a way forward. The whole family are invited to the choice appointment, so all perspectives can be considered. Children and young people will be offered to be seen on their own for part of the appointment. Sometimes young people prefer to be seen on their own for the whole appointment, when this is the case we would seek parents views at another time provided they are aware the young person has sought help. In the appointment the difficulties will be discussed, in addition to strengths, family relationships, a developmental history and what has previously been tried to help resolve the difficulties.
The initial assessment is called a choice appointment as the focus is on families making choices about what help and support they want. Sometimes the one off appointment is enough for families to know how to get things back on track, sometimes the needs are better met by other services and sometimes Specialist CAMHS are the right service to offer help. If Specialist CAMHS are the appropriate service to offer help then the options for how we can work in partnership on the goals, will be discussed. This will involve considering what evidence based interventions are recommended and the preferences of the family, so the young person and family can make an informed decision about the help they choose to receive.
As a parent or carer of a child or young person who is using CAMHS, it is important to take care of your own mental health and wellbeing. There are support groups run by different organisations, that offer a space for parents and carers to come together to discuss the challenges they may be facing and to get advice and support from other parents in similar situations. Carers in Herts offer a CAMHS parent carer support group for more information visit their CAMHS page.
Young Minds also offer advice and support for parents, for more information visit their Parents page.
Finally if you are in paid employment, it is worth speaking to your employer to see if there is any advice or support they can offer you at work.
If your child is working in partnership with someone from Specialist CAMHS then you can contact their care coordinator at the clinic. If the care coordinator is unavailable you can ask to the speak to the duty worker for advice. Out of hours you can contact the Mental Health Helpline on 01438 843322. In an emergency (for example your child has taken an overdose) you should take them to A&E, where they will be assessed by someone from the CAMHS- Children's Crisis Assessment and TreatmentTeam.
In recent years, schools have developed their ethos to support the mental health of the whole school community. In Hertfordshire, most schools have a Mental Health Lead – a member of staff who has developed their expertise in relation to mental health within educational settings. Schools are therefore increasingly at the forefront of identifying pupils who need some support and working with families to explore options for appropriate support. Knowledge and understanding is different in different schools but the willingness to help should always be there. As a team, the school, the pupil and the family can think together about the best ways to help. You may understandably be concerned about stigma – consider the best person to approach in school – it might be the mental health lead, the SENCo, the designated senior person for safeguarding or someone else that you trust, such as a member of the pastoral team.
There are many benefits of letting the school know about involvement in CAMHS: the school may have a different take on the needs of the pupil and therefore treat them with more empathy and compassion (especially in relation to attending appointments), the school will be able to negotiate with the pupil and family and reasonable adjustments that could be made in school to help the pupil whilst they are at school, and with your permission, will know who to contact for information and advice about how best to support the pupil at school. Schools are becoming key partners in the community of care for young people with mental health needs.
Prior to the pupil requiring Specialist CAMHS support, the school may have identified an opportunity to provide support at an earlier stage. This includes individual or group support that may be delivered by a suitable qualified member of staff within the school or a quality assured external provider. Schools also deliver lessons and anti-stigma campaigns to inform all young people about how to protect their mental health and wellbeing.
Provision in schools can be variable as there is no mandate for them to provide interventions such as counselling or play therapy. However, many schools employ or use external support to help pupils because they know that mental health problems can have an impact on education and because they care about their pupils. These kind of interventions are unlikely to be accessed alongside CAMHS but are sometimes offered when the level of need is below that which requires specialist CAMHS involvement.
There are a number of things that schools can potentially do that do not require funding and can help pupils with different levels of need. Schools can discuss with the pupil and family what things might be helpful, such as:
Agreeing a named member of staff to check in with the pupil daily / weekly and for the pupil to go to when requiring support,
Agreeing a signal and process to follow when the pupil needs to leave a lesson and access support,
Reviewing timetables and timescales for homework and considering different appointment times to avoid missing the same lesson to attend CAMHS,
Providing a role or responsibility or encouraging participation in a club or enrichment activity to increase purpose, routine, enjoyment and social inclusion,
Alerting members of staff to activities that may be difficult for the pupil such as speaking in class,
Providing unconditional positive regard for pupils, a safe and caring environment,
Regular communication with the pupil, family and Specialist CAMHS for advice when needed.
There is a range of information and support for schools (as well as young people and parents) at Healthy Young Minds in Herts.
There are a variety of online resources and apps that can help to provide support for your child or young person you care for. Kooth provides free online support for young people, Monday-Friday 12pm-10pm and Saturday- Sunday 6pm-10pm. Headspace provides simple guidance and activities on meditation and mindfulness. Additionally they can visit the children or young people section of our website for more information on what to expect, which aims to reduces some of the anxieties about CAMHS they may be experiencing.
It depends on the goals for partnership work and your preferences. Sometimes partnership work might be parent only sessions, or it can be family sessions, or individual sessions with the young person, or a combination of all three. We encourage active parent involvement where helpful.