YAMHS - not a fruit

CAMHS is a word (or acronym) you are more likely to have heard of. Most parts of the UK will have Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, which typically run to either 16 or 18 depending on where you live and do. But, if you think about it, this is a really odd time to have a break in service.

The years 16-18 encompass being able to marry, drive and vote. Many people leave school, but you could argue that not a lot else changes. Many continue to live at home. Many continue into further study. Many problems start either before or after this age.

Some CAMHS services have two components – for children and for adolescents – and the problems they work with can be quite different. Tantrums and school refusal, early ADHD or autism or aspergers – by the teenage years these have hopefully been diagnosed, supported, educated and medicated where needed.

However, adolescent departments see a whole new set of issues. Early onset psychosis, self harming, eating disorders to name a few. Not to mention, the more difficult and challenging of the child cases whose problems have not settled with age and time and often involve the whole family.

A few years later aged 16-18, it seems like everything changes. Not only does the person leave school and change legal status, but the whole approach to their mental health care does too. Adult services are ‘adult’ and emphasis taking personal responsibility, reducing risk and see much less well resourced. But your average CAMHS ‘graduate’ needs shared responsibility, some risk taking and still a whle load of help.

YAMHS is an idea in most parts of the country. A mental health services that starts a 14 or 15 and runs through unbroken till around 25. Most people who become unwell after 25 have benefitted from becoming adults first. Most people who stay unwell from teens to over 25 will need longer term care. But 15-25 is a real window of opportunity when many ‘severe and enduring’ mental health problems first show their face and are vulnerable to help.

Of course, not everyone agrees with me and I don’t work in a YAMHS service – only a handful exist. But how would you see mental health services arranged? If the pie must be sliced (and even this is up for grabs), how should we slice it.

This is one reason why we have teamed up with friends from Soul Survivor to run a conference on Emotions called MindSet. They are best known for Youth Work, but also have a huge stream called [Momentum] fr 20 somethings. YAMHS effectively cover this range and they see plenty of need for a joined up approach.

More information here. Saturday 2nd April 2011, Soul Survivor Watford, London.
Rob Waller, 11/02/2011