Getting Help for Young People

I’ve spoken often of the importance of the church in soul care.  We mustn’t simply palm off hurting people to professionals.  We must walk with them as we seek the very best medical help.  With all that in mind, what professional help is available in the UK for young people with mental health issues?

I asked an expert in the field and here’s what they advised:

The main port of call is something called CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). Staff working for this service help children and young people experiencing mental health difficulties.

Your GP can refer the young person to a team, and sometimes a school counsellor or psychologist can as well.  (This is assuming that the young person gives their consent – at least from year 8 onwards.  Before year 8 it’s up to the school/organisation for their policy on consent – parental or otherwise). When you get a referral, you’ll be given access to a multi-disciplinary team, who can assess the child and get them access to different sorts of care, which could include a counsellor, nutritionist, psychiatrist, etc.

Other referral options:

Hospitals: As part of the national strategy on suicide prevention, A+E have to notify CAMHS if they deal with a young person with mental health issues.  The idea is that no young person who goes to casualty leaves without some kind of follow-up.

Schools : every school in N.Ireland has to have a school counsellor, and many schools in the UK do as well.  Ask if your child’s school has a mental health team and what their policy is on mental health.  If this team or counsellors are involved, then they can speed up external referrals.

Local Councillors/Media: If all else fails, contact your local councillors or phone your local radio station explaining your situation and how you are trying to get help.

Once you get a referral, here’s some advice:

  • always give the worst-case scenario.  Explain what the young person is like when at their worst and don’t play it down. Say ‘I know my child and this is not their normal behaviour.’  Keep saying it.
  • tell the team you want a full mental health assessment. If they say that there’s no need, then ask for this in writing and find out who has authorised it and why they have reached this decision.
  • if they say it’s not a mental health issue then ask what further help is available
  • don’t give up.  Keep going back to your GP and/or to casualty (who have to send a report to the GP).  It’s tiring and inconvenient but it makes a difference to how seriously you will be taken. GPs have a certain number of emergency CAMHS referrals – tell the doctor that you would like this and explain that you will hold them responsible for your child’s health if they won’t take you seriously.


  • all CAMHS services have a confidentiality policy. Generally the only people who will know will be the one who referred you (usually GP) and in most cases family or carers. CAMHS will ask your permission to speak to others who might be involved eg; schools.
  • Each service is different, but staff might include doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers and a range of therapists such as family therapists, psychotherapists and art therapists.  When your first appointment is arranged you can ask who will be seeing you and what their job is.
  • Your first appointment is called an initial assessment and will last from between 1-2 hours.  The kind of info they will want to know is about your general health, how you’re getting on at school/training/work and any difficulties you might have with school, work, college, family or friends.
  • At the end of the assessment the team will discuss possible options with you which may include treatment options, further assessments, discussion with other services or redirection to a more appropriate service


General info:

Your local authority/health trust should have a helpline and specialist team.

MIND – (National Association of Mental Health) are  a good first port of call.

Young Minds website:


It can be worth contacting charities like:

Barnardos or NSPCC: (who will also work with children whose parents have mental health issues)

Childline: 0800 1111

Samaritans: 08457 909090

Lifelines: (crisis service based in N.Ireland) – they run a 24/7 helpline for sufferers/loved ones and they can help get you a specialist referral., tel: 0808 808 8000


2 thoughts on “Getting Help for Young People

  1. It took over 3 months from a referral being made for me and me recieving the letter from the MH team. By that point I didn’t need them anymore and ripped up the form. Referrals take so long that by the time anything comes of it the problem has either passed or got so bad you have been hospitalised (as with my friend)

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