For Children’s Mental Health Week, Jack, Assistant Clinical Psychologist explains his role in the CAMHS service
My name is Jack Middleton, I am an Assistant Clinical Psychologist in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) based at Albion Road Clinic in North Shields.
At our CAMHS, we support children and young people, up to 18 years old with mental health and neurodevelopmental difficulties, and their families too. Currently, I’m training as an assistant, my role allows me to work with a large variety of patients, meaning I spend time exploring and tackling emotional difficulties with children and young people through individual therapy sessions, and also contributing towards diagnosis decisions by conducting assessments and gathering information from parents and schools.
Children’s Mental Health Week is a fantastic opportunity to shed light on the importance of children and young people’s mental health. Research has shown that around half of all lifetime mental health problems start by the mid-teens, so by recognising difficulties early, we know that we can make a huge difference. After a challenging 2020, this year’s theme ‘Express Yourself’ is especially important, it’s about helping children and young people find a way to show who they are, how they feel, and how they see the world.
I think, regardless of whether they are struggling with their mental health, all children and young people should have someone they can talk to about whatever they’re going through. This is especially important during the pandemic, where common difficult experiences around virtual school work, loneliness, and uncertainties around the future, can be listened to and validated. It’s completely normal to feel worried or down. These conversations not only help children and young people feel closer to the adults in their life but also allow adults to be more aware of a child or young person’s mood and behaviour, including any early warning signs that suggest they might need support.
Recognising that someone may be struggling with their mental health is the first step in helping them. The next step is to respond appropriately. By sharing concerns, support can be considered. Speaking with a trusted teacher can be a great start, allowing forms of support available through school to be explored. Beyond that, difficulties can be shared with a healthcare professional, such as your GP, who may consider making a referral into CAMHS.
Our CAMHS service has experienced changes due to the pandemic, there have been challenging times but we’ve managed to adapt in many areas, and continue to see as many families as is safe to do so throughout lockdown, either in person, over the phone, or via Attend Anywhere.
There are many resources available, so it can feel a bit overwhelming and difficult to track down the ones most relevant for you. CAMHS Resources has a great selection that I use to direct families to as a starting point, which includes a new coronavirus section. Young Minds also have a variety of information for families in the UK about children and young people’s mental health.
For more specific difficulties, our CAMHS team has created a variety of online workshops that we would previously run face to face for teenagers and parents.
We hope that they will help improve an understanding and awareness of children and young people’s mental health, while also helping them develop strategies that will mean they can achieve their potential.