Delivering improvements to My CAMHS Choices

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In the UK, an estimated 1 in 10 children and young people - approximately 850,000 - has a diagnosable mental health problem. We know the demand for mental health care for children and young people is increasing but reviews of children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) suggest that much can still be done to improve both young people’s experiences of and outcomes from treatment.


Children and young people do not always feel their care is person-centred; the services are not responsive to individual needs, do not involve children and families as partners, and, at times, are not age-appropriate. A quarter of children accessing services who completed routine service satisfaction measures between 2011 and 2015 reported that they were not given enough explanation about their care (CORC, 2016). Many want to be more involved in decisions about their care, particularly as they get older (Care Quality Commission, 2017). There is also strong evidence that person-centred care results in better treatment outcomes, with children and young people more likely to be and stay engaged with treatment (Evidence Based Practice Unit, 2013).

And for those children and young people who are not able to access CAMHS – perhaps due to fear of asking a parent or GP about their mental health – there is an urgent need for access to informal and evidence-based support. While this information exists in various forms, children and young people report that it is often hard to find and have a preference for online advice (YoungMinds, 2014).

With the support of The Pixel Fund, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families will be able to deliver improvements to My CAMHS Choices – a freely accessible website offering an approachable guide to CAMHS and access to peer experiences and advice – as recommended by young people.


My CAMHS Choices was first launched in 2014, after a three-year project in collaboration with YoungMinds and Off the Record, steered and developed by young people with experience of CAMHS. They believed that finding out as much as possible about their treatment options was a vitally helpful step in enabling them to engage with the service and their worker, as it made them feel as though it was something they were involved in rather than something that was happening to them. By ensuring children and young people understand what CAMHS is, if it’s right for them, what they can expect if accessing treatment and what their rights are, they can be empowered to take an active role in their care. This will ensure they get the best out of their treatment, improve their mental health, build on their strengths and achieve their goals in life.

The initial project evaluation in 2015 found the online resources were likely to have a direct influence on young people’s likelihood to attend appointments, and their likelihood to express opinions and ask questions. Both young people and professionals felt the resources could challenge stigma and de-mystify services: “it just makes it seem like it’s a lot more normal”. But the report also showed areas for improvement.


This project will bring the My CAMHS Choices site to a newly developed section of – Anna Freud Youth. This will be a dedicated sectioned designed by and for children and young people. Our ambition is to ensure children and young people have access to a range of resources, tools and information to help them understand their mental health and make choices about what treatment or care they may need. Alongside My CAMHS Choices, the youth section of the site will host self-care resources, tools, advice and information. Self-care is a developing theme for AFNCCF and we are finding that giving young people more information about how to approach their own capacity to support their mental health is not only empowering but helps them to make decisions about treatment and other support they access.

With The Pixel Fund, AFNCCF hope to support: improved experience of CAMHS for children and families, better treatment outcomes, more children and young people able to access informal support to supplement CAMHS and reduction of ‘did not attends’ (DNAs) for CAMHS.

On behalf of Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families