Parents & Carers

When supporting your child or young person it can sometimes be hard to know what difficulties they might be having or if they’re struggling with their mental health or emotional wellbeing. To help, we’ve put together a list of some of challenges they might be experiencing and tips for managing together.

What can I do next?

Have you have looked at the relevant information and advice? Have you tried the self-help options? Have you accessed support from the suggested apps, websites and organisations listed? If you are still struggling to find help, it might be helpful to speak to a CAMHS clinician. Please contact your GP, social worker or other professionals who can help you contact CAMHS.

Zero Tolerance approach

We understand that this is a stressful and frustrating time in everyone’s lives, and that parents and carers very much want the best for their families. Sometimes however, this can lead to some of our staff being subjected to threatening behaviour or abuse from a small number of people.

We ask you to be mindful of the impact this can have on individuals working within our service.

In Sussex, we are part of Operation Cavell, a partnership between Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Sussex Police to tackle violence and anti-social behaviour which is aimed towards healthcare staff.


What is Sussex CAMHS and what can it help with?

Sussex Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service is an NHS specialist service, provided by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust for young people aged 0-18 years and their families who are experiencing difficulties with their mental and emotional health. Many young people experience difficulties with their mental health such as anxiety, low mood, trauma, eating difficulties, plus many others which can impact on all aspects of life such as education, home life, hobbies, socialising and having fun.

It is important to know that everyone has mental health and that we can all experience tough times and this can cause our mental health to suffer. CAMHS work with young people, their families and other organisations, such as schools, to achieve the following:

  • Develop a shared understanding of the young person’s difficulties. For some young people at CAMHS, psychiatric diagnosis may be helpful. Diagnosis raises lots of questions, so find out more here:
  • Identify realistic goals or changes that the young person would like to make
  • Identify and build on strengths
  • Improve self-esteem and confidence to cope with difficulties
  • Learn emotional coping techniques to help manage difficult or upsetting thoughts, feelings, urges or experiences
  • Empower young people to identify, express and communicate their needs, to ensure their health is supported at home and school, college or work and to feel confident in knowing where and how to get additional support
What CAMHS don’t do

We cannot “cure” mental health difficulties or prevent difficulties ever coming back. Lots of things can impact on our mental health, some of which are beyond anyone’s control. Instead we work with young people and families to help you learn how to manage your difficulties, and in many cases, overcome them. There may also be some difficulties or experiences which CAMHS are not able to provide support for. In these cases we will help you access appropriate help from other organisations and services such as drug and alcohol services and bereavement services.

What will CAMHS expect from us?

You will need to be willing and committed to attending sessions that are offered, as well as trying and practising techniques until you find what works well. You will need to be prepared to work with us in this way so that you have the best chance of achieving goals.

Overcoming difficulties also depends on how much an individual would like to change. Often change can be scary and many young people feel they don’t have the energy or the motivation to change or try different things. If the young person has made the step of asking for help and attending an assessment and are committed to making changes, we will work with them to help them to achieve their goals/recovery.

How do I get an appointment at CAMHS and how long will it take to get one?

Anyone can help a young person to get an appointment at Sussex Specialist CAMHS; parents/carers, teachers, health professionals (such as a school nurse or GP) or a social worker.

We would recommend talking to CAMHS before making a referral so that we can offer advice and guidance and to decide whether CAMHS is the right service to meet the young person’s needs. CAMHS may also be able to offer recommendations about other services, organisations and things that may be helpful.

If after receiving a referral it is agreed that it would be helpful for Sussex Specialist CAMHS to offer an appointment, you will be given a date as soon as possible. Please be aware that there may be a wait for an appointment.

What happens next?
  • Following a first appointment, if it is agreed that Sussex Specialist CAMHS can help a number of things may happen
  • The young person may be offered a group to attend. We know that for some groups with other people experiencing similar difficulties are the best support. These will be run by our experienced clinicians
  • The young person may be offered a further period of assessment and intervention by one of our clinicians.
How long will a young person have to come to CAMHS?

This will depend on many factors including the type of difficulties the young person is experiencing and their goals. Some people coming to CAMHS will be offered one of our specialist therapies or interventions. We typically help people over an average of 10-12 meetings. Sometimes young people are also offered medication to help them feel better, although most young people coming to CAMHS do not require medication.

How long do sessions last?

Sessions usually last between 50 minutes and one hour. Some sessions are longer depending on the therapy approach being used.

Will the young person be prescribed medication?

No, not everyone that comes to CAMHS is prescribed medication. Medication can be helpful for some young people depending on what difficulties they are experiencing. If you have any questions or worries about medication, you can ask your clinician. You might also find useful information and guidance about psychiatric medication on this website:

It’s the weekend or evening and CAMHS is closed - what do I do?

If there is an emergency and your young person/someone else is at risk of serious harm, call 999 immediately and tell anyone else who may be near you so they can help.

If a young person is in crisis and do not know what to do, click here.

If it is not an emergency, encourage your young person to speak to you about how they are feeling, or call a helpline, such as Samaritans on 116 123. If you already see someone at CAMHS, you can call after the weekend or the next day to speak with them or someone else in the team.

What happens if we stop coming to CAMHS but need more help?

We know that when people finish their work with us and are discharged from our service, people can worry that they might not cope. It is important before leaving CAMHS that you complete a relapse prevention plan, which will give the young person a plan of what to do if they are struggling.

The self-help pages of this website can offer reminders and the top tips to help a young person cope and access extra self-help information and advice.

Young people can sometimes be re-referred to CAMHS if this is agreed this would be the most helpful thing to do.

What do certain words mean? Read our glossary

Here are some of the words that you might come across on this website or when people are talking about CAMHS or mental health.


Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) – CAMHS provides specialist diagnostic assessments for specific age groups and provides support for those with moderate-severe mental health problems and ASC. Support for people with ASC is provided as part of the local offer from schools, colleges, voluntary organisations and the local authority.

Assessment – An assessment is a chance for CAMHS workers to ask questions which will help us to understand your current situation and the difficulties a young person is experiencing, as well as finding out about what changes you would like to make.


Behaviour – Behaviour means how we act and respond to things.


Care plan – A care plan is the agreement that you make with your CAMHS worker about what steps will help you to work towards your goals and the changes you’d like to make. Care plans will be reviewed often and can change depending on a young person’s needs and goals.

Clinician – Clinician is a name for someone who works at CAMHS directly with young people and their families. They might also be called a CAMHS worker.

CPA – A CPA stands for ‘Care Programme Approach’ and is a meeting between a young person, a CAMHS worker, plus anyone else involved in supporting to agree the care plan.

Consent – Consent means permission/an agreement for something to happen. It is important that CAMHS understand what the young person agrees to. Your CAMHS worker will explain and go through this with you.

Confidentiality – Confidentiality means keeping information about a young person private. There will be different types of confidentiality and your CAMHS worker will explain and go through this with you.


Discharge – Discharge means that it has been agreed between a young person and their CAMHS worker that CAMHS support is no longer needed and no further appointments are required.

Duty Service – During this time, there will be a qualified CAMHS worker who is able to offer information or advice.


Emotion – Emotion is another word for feelings. We all experience a range of feelings such as happiness, worry, sadness and anger.




Intervention – Intervention means treatment. There are many different types of interventions or treatments that CAMHS offer.





Medication – Medication may be tablets or liquids prescribed by a doctor (or psychiatrist) to help with different difficulties. For more information about medication go to or

Mental Health – Everyone has mental health. Mental health is about our capacity to get on with our lives, develop relationships and progress in line with our preferences.

Mental Illness or Disorder – Mental illness can impact on how someone thinks feels and acts. This might have an impact on how people cope with some or all aspects of their life (such as school or college, friendships, doing activities). Mental illness can happen to anyone at any time.



Outcome Measures – When you come to CAMHS you will be asked to complete questionnaires about your thoughts, feelings and difficulties. These questionnaires are called outcome measures and they help you, your family and your CAMHS worker check the progress you are making.


Physical Health Assessment – Some young people need to have their physical health checked. The types of checks we might do are checking weight and height, blood pressure and temperature.



Referral – A referral is the way in which key information about a young person is given to CAMHS. This information will include personal details (date of birth), contact details and details of the difficulties they are having.

Risk Assessment – A risk assessment is a process of identifying situations or factors which might cause harm to a young person or someone else. A risk assessment will also include things, people, situations or other factors which reduce or prevent risks or a crisis from happening. The young person, CAMHS worker and anyone else involved in caring or supporting them will be involved in thinking about risk to make sure they are as safe as possible.