Child and adolescent mental health services
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) is a free specialist service for children and adolescents with serious emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties.
CAMHS services across Ireland are run by the HSE.
The service caters for young people up to 16-years-old, although some CAMHS services extend to 18 years-old for young people in full-time education.
What can CAMHS help with?
The range of mental health problems experienced by children and teenagers is broad and can include:
- eating disorders
- attempted suicide
- complex bereavement
- relationship difficulties
- school related problems.
How do you contact CAMHS?
You need to be referred to CAMHS by a health professional who is familiar with you. This will usually be your family GP.
CAMHS also accept referrals from other senior health professionals such as public health nurses, social workers, speech and language therapists or educational psychologists.
Your family GP will also know where your nearest CAMHS service is located.
Who is on the CAMHS team?
The CAMHS team is made up of health professionals who are experienced in working with children and teenagers with mental health difficulties.
The team consists of a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, registrar, clinical psychologist, clinical nurse specialist, social worker, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist and administrative staff.
What help is available from CAMHS?
Often the most important help that CAMHS offer is to talk with and listen to you. The health professional will listen and ask questions to understand what’s going on for you.
We’re all different and so the support CAMHS offers each of us will be different, but some of the following approaches may be recommended:
- individual work
- family work
- art and play therapy
- cognitive behavioural therapy
- group work
- parenting courses
- social skills groups
What to expect
CAMHS usually invite both you and your parents/guardians to attend the first appointment. Your family will meet one or more members of the CAMHS team. Sometimes CAMHS want to meet all your family together, other times they ask to meet you and your parents/guardians separately.
The first meeting
At the first meeting, a member of the CAMHS team will ask you questions to help them better understand what’s going on for you.
They will ask questions about you and your family life, how you get on at school and your general health. In some situations CAMHS might want to visit you at home or seek permission from you and your parent/guardian to visit your school.
They try to keep you involved and informed at each step and you should make sure to ask any questions you have so that you know what the next steps are.
After this initial meeting, the health professional will arrange a follow-up appointment with your parents/guardians to let them know their thoughts and to discuss what help and support you may need.
Your family GP will be kept informed of your progress.
Watch visiting a psychiatrist for more information.
The team approach to CAMHS
All CAMHS work is team focused. All assessments are discussed with the team. All of the interventions are planned by the team in collaboration with you and your family.
While the team’s approach is primarily child-centred they work closely with parents and carers.
How long with it take?
The waiting time for the service will depend on how urgently you need help and support.
Once you have your initial meeting, you may need some more meetings with the CAMHS team as most problems don’t disappear overnight.
Some problems may resolve very quickly and require only two or three meetings. However, in other instances, regular meetings over a period of months may be needed.
Confidentiality for both you and your family is an essential part of the CAMHS service. Generally the information you share with your psychiatrist or another member of the CAMHS team is kept in confidence.
However, if concerns arise about your safety and welfare, then your parents or guardians and other services may be informed as necessary.