Getting professional help

Parents and Caregivers

If you’re worried about your child and their emotional well-being or behaviour, talking to your family doctor (GP)  is a good place to start. You might also consider talking to other relevant people such as your health visitor, the school nurse or a teacher. Your doctor is the person who can refer your child for specialist mental health services if needed. They can also discuss your worries, and help you find reliable information and local support.
Each topic listed on this website has information to help you decide what you can do to support your child and whether you should seek professional help.
Sometimes, it can be a good idea to have a phone call or a visit to the doctor without your child first, to explain your concerns. Writing down what you or others have noticed or are worried about can be helpful too. Consider whether your child might prefer to talk to the doctor alone for all or part of the appointment if they are old enough.
(See also guidance on confidentiality below)

Young people

If you are a child or young person, you can talk to your doctor confidentially. Follow this link for some advice on talking to your doctor about your mental health or any problems you are having.


From the age of 16 years, young people are entitled to full confidentiality from their doctor who therefore cannot share information with anyone, even their parents, without their consent. Younger children who disclose information with the expectation that it will be confidential are also entitled to that confidentiality (See exceptions below). Of course, doctors will generally encourage teens and young adults to talk to their families about the problems they are experiencing, and most children are happy to involve their parents. For young adults e.g. at college or university, this consent has to be noted in their records. Without that consent, parents may still call the doctor to share their concerns even if the doctor cannot give information about them.
A doctor may disclose confidential information in exceptional circumstances e.g. if they judge that disclosure is in the best interests of the child (who may not have the maturity to make a decision about disclosure) or where disclosure is required by law or is in the public interest

What to expect from Specialist Mental Health Services in the UK

Do you feel your child needs to see a psychologist or have specialist mental health advice? In the UK these services can be accessed for free and are often known as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services or CAMHS. To be referred to a specialist service, you will usually first need to see your GP. In some parts of the UK, referrals can be made by schools, or families can even self-refer. You can find out by searching for the word “CAMHS” and your area online.

If you are concerned about a possible Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) your child will more usually be referred to Community Paediatrics if under 18 years. Again, your doctor will help you. For those over 18, a referral to adult services will be needed.

Worries about mental health such as depression or eating disorders in under 18-year-olds are usually referred to CAMHS.

Waiting times for both services can be long due to demand. Any referral needs to explain what has already been tried, such as support from the school nurse, health visitor or local counselling. A letter from the school and/or from parents and caregivers detailing what they have noticed can be really helpful.

What is it like going to CAMHS? information for 11-18-year-olds and their families

As waiting times are constantly shifting, are different in each area and depend on the individual problem, we cannot offer estimates for how long you will have to wait to see a specialist.

If you live in the South-West UK, scroll down for information on your local CAMHS services.

When will CAMHS see children more quickly?

  • Eating disorders, especially in younger children
  • Serious suicidal thoughts or other concerns about risk.
  • Problems with bonding in infancy especially if mum has postnatal depression.
  • Psychosis (see link for definition)


Maya talks about her experience of CAMHS and about other things that she found helpful like the ChIldlIne message boards.


Please contact us if you work for CAMHS and would like to help us add your area


  • Bristol Children’s Community Health Partnership which includes information on CAMHS and Community Paediatrics and services such as school nursing, speech therapy and excellent information on specific conditions such as ADHD.
  • Bristol services are based in a variety of locations around the city including Eastville, Barton Hill, Brentry, Knowle, Whitchurch, Kingswood, Patchway and Kingsweston. The link will take you to details on each including travel and parking.

Bath, Swindon, Oxford, Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire and Somerset

Gloucester and Hereford

South Gloucester

  • South Gloucester CAMHS is at the Kingswood and Pathway Locality Hubs which are also a base for other help and support such as speech therapy, midwives, childcare, advice on finance and housing, parenting courses and more for families.


  • CAMHS Cornwall This website includes a video on “What is CAMHS” (scroll down to the bottom). Parents can also self-refer for Early Help or CAMHS services via the website. 

Exeter and North Devon

  • CAMHS services run in Exeter, Totnes, Tiverton and Barnstable and the website explains how referrals are made, the services available and the different locations.  

Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon

  • Plymouth CAMHS General information on the service and a video showing you their inpatient adolescent ward (Plym Bridge House) 

  • Torbay and South Devon CAMHS On the parent’s page there is a self-referral form, links to useful websites and some videos on the CAMHS service.