The reasons why a child needs help might be to do with how they’re thinking and feeling and/or how they’re affected by things that are happening around them. This could be to do with difficulties at school such as exam pressure, bullying or moving to a new school; or it could be a response to difficulties at home, maybe family separation, moving house, bereavement, or health difficulties of family members.

Children can sometimes find it hard to speak about the difficulties they are having, this might be because they feel they don’t want to make a fuss, cause worry or upset, or maybe it’s that they feel it might make trouble.  They may feel embarrassed or believe that telling someone might only cause them more pain.

As a result a child’s behaviour, particularly behaviours that are unusual to them, can often provide signs that they’re having difficulties with their mental health and that professional help is required.  Examples of changes in behaviour might include:

Outward behaviour, such as:

  • falling behind at school or college

  • refusal to go to school or college

being more:

  • aggressive

  • disruptive

  • challenging

Inward behaviour, such as being more:

  • quiet

  • uncommunicative

  • anxious

  • depressed

  • not mixing with friends

  • not eating

It’s important that children feel that there are people around them that they can talk to and trust and are willing to take action to support them should they need it.  Having people that will listen to them is all the help that some children might need; but if you feel that this isn’t enough for a child and that their difficulties are starting to get in the way of their lives, then it’s important that you get a second opinion.  Their doctor, school nurse or social worker can advise as to whether specialist support is needed; and if they think CAMHS is the right service to provide this, they will arrange a referral.  For more information about referrals, click here>>


Remember, if you have a concern about a child, you must act in line with your own organisation’s procedures; this includes being clear to the child about what rights they have to confidentiality.


These pages from the 13-19 sections of this site may also be useful in helping you understand when a child might need specialist mental health support:

Do I need help

13-19 Do I need help - link button

gives more examples of when a child might need help with their mental health, but it’s important to remember that these are not the only reasons.

Keeping in touch

13-19 Keeping in touch - link button

talks about keeping in contact with the service, but also how CAMHS is not an emergency service. CAMHS clinics are open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday, and if urgent help is needed outside of these hours then contact must be made with the family’s doctor’s surgery or with the Accident & Emergency department of the local hospital.

You will find many web pages on the Internet that provide specific information about children’s emotional and mental health, here is a useful one to start:

The YoungMinds website outlines its role as a national charity committed to improving the mental health and emotional well-being of all children and young people; and provides a helpline for parents with concerns.

The Understanding Childhood website provides downloadable information leaflets for families and childcare professionals to help raise emotionally secure children.