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Children and young people's mental health services (CYPMHS)

Children and young people’s mental health services (CYPMHS) is used as a term for all services that work with children and young people who have difficulties with their mental health or wellbeing.

You may also see the term children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) used. This is an older term for the main specialist NHS community service within the wider CYPMHS that may be available locally.

Local areas have a number of different support services available.

These NHS-funded services, together with some local authority services, might be from the statutory, voluntary or school-based sector. For example, 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 CYPMHS.

What are specialist CYPMHS?

Specialist CYPMHS are NHS mental health services that focus on the needs of children and young people.

They're 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 workers
  • education mental health practitioners – who work in mental health support teams in schools and colleges
  • children’s wellbeing practitioners
  • specialist substance misuse workers

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

How do I get help from specialist CYPMHS?

Getting help from a specialist CYPMHS is different depending on where you live. Waiting times can vary too.

Most CYPMHS 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 can also look at your local integrated care board (ICB) website and search for children and young people's mental health.

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 CYPMHS.

There are many services to go to for help without having to ask for a referral, including crisis helplines that anyone can call.

Read about where to get urgent help for mental health.

Read about voluntary community-based youth information services - which often have drop-in sessions for advice and professional help.

When is the transition from specialist CYPMHS to adult services?

The age children and young people move to another service can vary, although most services transition at 18. A few services transition at 16, or there may be some flexibility.

Transition planning should start around 3 to 6 months before the transition.

Transition between services can be a scary time for young people as the teams they know and are used to working with change.

It's important everyone involved understands the process and feels supported and prepared to try to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.

The CYPMHS team should work to help support the transition. For example, a joint meeting might be arranged with the current team and the new adult mental health services.

The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families website has information about moving on from CYPMHS.

What can I expect from my CYPMHS appointment?

Knowing what to expect when you're going to CYPMHS will help you feel more in control of what's happening.

Rethink has a guide that offers tips about what to expect and ask during your first CYPMHS appointment and beyond.

CYPMHS are made up of teams of different professionals, such as psychologists, social workers, nurses and therapists.

You may be asked a lot of questions and team members might want to talk to your family.

This is because the team you see will want to listen to you get a good understanding of the problem in your own words.

Once they have a good sense of who you are and what you want, they'll suggest different things that can help and you'll decide what to do next together.

The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families website has information and a video about how young people receive support from mental health services.

CYPMHS resources

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

Page last reviewed: 3 April 2019
Next review due: 3 April 2022