Psychiatry is a medical specialty dedicated to the study and treatment of mental health problems. Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialist training in mental health and psychiatric issues.
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists are fully trained psychiatrists who have additional training in child development and in mental health difficulties that arise in young people.
Child and Adult Psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental illness, but are less likely to use medication. Research indicates that medication is less likely to be effective and more likely to cause side effects in young people.
Many psychiatrists work in child or adult mental health clinics/teams in the public health service. To get an appointment you need a referral from a GP or from the accident and emergency department.
Some psychiatrists accept referrals from other health professionals.
This is a free specialist service operated by the Health Service Executive for children and adolescents with serious emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties. The service caters for young people up to 16 years-old, although now most CAMHS services extend to 18 years-old.
Some CAMHS teams may not be HSE e.g. South Lee/ Kerry CAMHS is provided by the Brothers of Charity Southern Services (although this is expected to change soon) or by private services such as Lucena in Dublin. Social care workers and other therapists have also been added to CAMHS teams.
There is usually a waiting list, which can vary in length depending on staffing and local resources. Referrals are prioritised on the basis of need.
The range of emotional and behavioural difficulties experienced by children and teenagers is broad and may include anxiety, low mood/depression, eating disorders, depression, self-harm, psychosis and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The CAMHS teams offer assessment and interventions to young people with moderate to severe mental health difficulties.
Mental health problems in young people are more likely to emerge in the context of wider family dynamics so much of the work in a CAMHS team focusses on helping the family to find better ways to cope with difficulties.
The CAMHS team is made up of health professionals experienced in working with children and teenagers with mental health problems. Team members may vary depending on local resources but can consist of:
CAMHS usually invites both parents or guardians and the young person to attend the first appointment. The family will meet one or more members of the team.
Sometimes CAMHS meet all the family together. Other times they meet the parents or young person separately. These meetings include asking questions about the young person’s development, school progress, general health and relevant family history.
In some situations CAMHS seek parent(s) permission to observe the young person in school. Follow-up appointments will be scheduled to give the parents feedback and discuss what help may?be needed. The family GP will be kept informed of the young person’s progress.
All CAMHS ?work is discussed with the team. Any interventions planned by the team are in collaboration with the young person and their family.
While the team’s approach is primarily child-centred they work closely with parents and carers.
Problems don’t disappear overnight. Some may resolve very quickly and require only two or three meetings. However, in other instances, months or longer may be needed.
A young person must be referred to CAMHS by ?a health professional familiar with the case. This will usually be the family GP. Some CAMHS also accept referrals from other senior health professionals such as public health nurses, social workers, speech and language therapists or educational psychologists.
Young adults of 18 years-old and older are referred to general adult mental health services. General adult mental health services also operate on a multi-disciplinary basis and are most frequently offered on an out-patient basis.
In-patient mental health services are usually attached to general hospitals as the older, often Victorian, dedicated mental hospitals are being closed across the country.
CAMHS involve both parents in decisions regarding treatment. Stay actively involved in what could be a challenging experience both for you and your family.
If your son or daughter is referred to mental health services you should keep communication channels open them and the CAMHS team. Write down any questions you might have so that you don’t forget in any conversations with the team.