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A guide to mental health services in England

Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)

CAMHS is used as a term for all services that work with children and young people who have difficulties with their emotional or behavioural wellbeing.

Local areas have a number of different support services available. These might be from the statutory, voluntary or school-based sector, such as an NHS trust, local authority, school or charitable organisation.

Children and young people may need help with a wide range of issues at different points in their lives. Parents and carers may also need help and advice to deal with behavioural or other problems their child is experiencing. Parents, carers and young people can receive direct support through CAMHS.


What are specialist CAMHS?

Specialist CAMHS are NHS mental health services that focus on the needs of children and young people. They are multidisciplinary teams that often consist of:

  • psychiatrists
  • psychologists
  • social workers
  • nurses
  • support workers
  • occupational therapists
  • psychological therapists – this may include child psychotherapists, family psychotherapists, play therapists and creative art therapists
  • primary mental health link workers
  • specialist substance misuse workers

Check out YoungMinds' list of who's who in CAMHS and the MindEd e-session on people working in child mental health


How do I get help from specialist CAMHS?

Getting help from a specialist CAMHS service is different depending on where you live. Waiting times can vary, too. Most CAHMS have their own website, which will have information about access, referrals and more, including phone numbers, so you can get in touch directly for detailed advice.

You may also find it helpful to speak to:

  • your GP
  • someone you trust at school or college – for example, a teacher, pastoral lead, school nurse or special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO)
  • health visitors
  • children's centres

If you or your child is being supported by social services or the youth offending team, your key worker will be able to refer your child for an appointment with someone in specialist CAMHS. 

TipThere are many services you can go to for help without having to ask for a referral. For example,


When is the transition from specialist CAMHS to adult services?

The age children and young people move to another service can differ. For example, some transition at 16, others at 18 or older. Transition between services can be a scary time for young people as the teams they know and are used to working with change. 

It is important everyone involved understands the process and feels supported and prepared to try to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible. Your CAMHS team should work closely with you to support the transition. For example, you could have a joint meeting with your current team and the new adult mental health services.

TipYoungMinds has put together a range of guides with tips and advice about transition, including a guide to transition for young people (PDF, 447kb), as well as information for parents and carers and information for professionals (PDF, 835kb).

My CAMHS choices also has a Moving On page, with videos answering questions about leaving CAMHS.


CAMHS resources

A lot of organisations have helpful information about what CAMHS services offer.


Page last reviewed: 26/04/2016

Next review due: 26/04/2019