How To Fix CAMHS: Helping Children and Teens with Mental Health Problems

The General Election is coming up in UK, I mean- it’s still a while away but it’s dominating every bit of media that I can get my hands on.

Recently the Labour party and the Lib Dems have been talking about mental health and how they would improve care and waiting times. In particular, the Labour party have been talking about targeting the children’s mental health services.

I’m actually quite amazed that someone’s started paying attention to the fact that there are glaring, potentially lethal problems with our mental health services… but hey, miracles do happen.

(That and the fact that there was a 6% rise in suicides from 2012 to 2013.)

I’ve written before about my experiences with CAMHS and the mental health services, but I want to break it down and examine exactly what could be changed. I’m sure that the people who work for CAMHS are doing their best, but the system is screwed up and it’s dragging them down with it.

We need to break CAMHS apart and look at it again:

  • I had a quick referral to CAMHS, probably because I broke down in the middle of my school and started screaming about the fact that I thought my Mother was trying to kill me. Obviously, the more resources (*cough money cough*) that we put into CAMHS, the better it’s going to be.
  • I wasn’t told what was wrong with me. I can understand that it can be stigmatising to have a ‘label’, but it’s really confusing to not get a diagnosis. As far as I was concerned, I was just ‘crazy’ and that was ten times more damaging.
  • I was only offered one hour-long sessions once a week where I talked about my problems. A week is too long for someone who is depressed. I remember sitting on the floor and sobbing into the carpet by the feet of the mental health worker I was having sessions with. I begged and begged her to kill me, to let me die. There are few memories that stick out for me from my time in counselling; but this is one of them. This is an issue that would take a lot of effort to fix, it would need more staff and money… but it’s not impossible.
  • I wasn’t offered medication. I don’t know if this was the same for everyone, this is just what happened to me. I know the arguments against medication, I was very against it myself for a number of years… but I never had the chance to even talk about it. It could have saved me from years of misery.
  • No-one acknowledged that I was hallucinating. I had a lot of scary episodes involving hallucinations and strange thoughts, I did some weird stuff (taping up my windows?) that I told my ‘counsellor’ about and no-one said or did anything to help me- they didn’t even give me advice on how to deal with the episodes I was having! This could have been fixed by someone doing their job properly.
  • When my ‘counsellor’ was sick there was no-one to fill in for her. I can understand that getting someone else up to speed with my case would have been time-consuming, but the alternative was leaving a vulnerable adolescent to fend for themselves. Not acceptable. There needs to be support available to pick up the slack when support workers are sick.
  • I was ignored when I told my ‘counsellor’ that I was going to kill myself. I told this woman very plainly that I was going to kill myself. I sat in sessions singing and talking to myself, when she asked me what I was doing I told her that the Angels were talking to me. She did nothing. 24 hours later I tried to jump off a roof because I thought I could fly. Great job CAMHS. It’s probably horrible to recommend that a young person be put into an over-crowded, under-funded ward but if they’re telling you that they’re going to kill themselves then maybe it’s step that needs to be taken???!! At least tell someone!!

Those are the main things that I have a problem with, there’s probably quite a few more that I’ve forgotten. I have a few friends who’ve used the services and they’ve all said similar things to me. My GP (who was wonderful, helpful and patient when I was suffering from depression last year) has a very low opinion of them as a service. Essentially there seems to be a huge flaw in the way that CAMHS operates, and I think this needs to be addressed ASAP.

’til next time,

Wren x

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3 thoughts on “How To Fix CAMHS: Helping Children and Teens with Mental Health Problems

  1. A-fucking-MEN sister. CAMHS has been nothing but tripe in the life of one young girl I know. She’s constantly being told she has no place in the system, despite horrific abuse as a baby. PTSD is clearly the only diagnosis she should have been given, yet CAMHS has tried to tell her loving foster parents that the way she is is their fault! They rescued her!
    I agree with what you say on the subject of the ‘counselling’ you gave. More and more I hear stories of people who have found that their counsellor is in no way trained to cope with what the person is going through. Counselling seems to be a very wishy-washy discipline sometimes, especially if the counsellor has not been well trained. I hope we end up with new rules about mental health for children and adolescents- so many are failed. I count myself in that. x

    • Thanks for your comment, it’s so sad to hear more and more stories of children and teens being let down by the system! I think the problem is that this sector needs more funding and a bit of an overhaul, but mental health is generally overlooked and there are so many parts of the NHS that need more funding. It’s incredibly frustrating. When I spoke to my GP he seemed to think that the main problem with CAMHS is that it doesn’t have a specified approach. They don’t use specific psychotherapies such as CBT or behaviour therapy, they just talk to them… and that clearly does very little.
      Thanks again,
      Wren x

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