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Children’s Mental Health week runs from the 1st – 7th February. It’s an opportunity for us at Search to raise awareness of the growing psychological problems amongst the UK’s children and young adults.

A 2020 study done by NHS Digital says this is a spiralling issue in the UK’s children (aged between 5 and 16), with reported problems rising from 11.4% to 16.7% of boys and 10.3% to 15.2% of girls, in the three years from 2017 to 2020.

The impact of the COVID-19 lockdown and the closure of schools has teachers and health practitioners warning that children will be feeling the effects of the pandemic well into 2022 and beyond. Particularly at risk are those who live in difficult households, for example in an overcrowded environment or in poverty. The enforced lockdown has placed a huge strain on all children, as well as their carers and teachers.

We caught up with Mia B, a mental health practitioner qualified to Masters level, currently working in CAMHS. She tells us more about her role, and explains what it’s like to work in the area of mental health for children.

Tell us about your role

I work as a mental health practitioner for CAMHS. My job role is varied, and includes mental state assessments, risk assessments, visits to the A&E, management of family, and social assessments. I work alongside a multidisciplinary mental health team of consultants, psychiatrists, nurses, clinical psychologists, paediatricians, and a talented developmental team.

CAMHS are available to children and young people who are at risk of significant, persistent or complex emotional and mental health difficulties. As a CAMHS professional, I work with children and young people all over the UK who are having difficulties with a range of mental health conditions.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy giving young people the skills they need to cope with the world. I help them have confidence, and impart my knowledge of psychoeducational therapy. It’s extremely important to me to be able to make a difference to children and young people’s mental health.

What is the most challenging aspect of it?

I don’t particularly enjoy all the admin work! Aside from that, I would say time management is essential, as are good organisational skills, to make sure you stay on top of it all.

It’s a stressful job, so self care and giving yourself time to relax is really important. That can be as simple as a five minute coffee break or having a nice chat with a fellow colleague. Remember: if you don’t look after yourself, you won’t be able to look after anyone else.

What skills and qualities do you need to succeed in this area of mental health?

You’ll need to be either a qualified social worker or a qualified nurse, and be able to confidently risk assess patients. It’s important to have experience working with children and young adults, and knowledge of mental health. As you’ll be working with people in a multidisciplinary team, people skills and patience is vital, as is good time management skills.

For me, one of the most important qualities a mental health practitioner must have is empathy – particularly if you are working with children and young adults.

How does it differ from working in adult mental health services?

Personally, I’ve never actually worked in adult mental health services, although I do have personal experiences that help me relate. This personal experience of adult mental health has provided me with skills and knowledge that I can apply to my current role.

Why is it important to raise awareness of children’s mental health?

Children can find it difficult to express their feelings, and understand how they feel. This can come out in other ways, with feelings of anger, consistently low mood and poor self-esteem. For those really suffering, perhaps with trauma from the past, I’ve seen self harming and suicidal thoughts.

These young people need to know that support is out there if they need it. It’s accessible, it’s private and confidential. Children and young adults, and their parents, shouldn’t be scared to seek professional help if they need it. I promise, it will help.

What advice would you give to anyone who is looking to progress their career in CAMHS?

It’s important to get lots of experience working with young people in different settings. Helping those with learning difficulties, working with social services, and mental health volunteering can provide useful experience and help you develop valuable skills for anyone seeking a career in CAMHS.

How has the lockdown and the impact of covid-19 impacted children’s mental health?

Children thrive on routine, so lockdown has changed this significantly. A lack of physical activity, particularly if they don’t have access to an outdoor space, can have a huge impact on their mental health. With the schools being closed too, a lack of face-to-face support can lead to them suffering in silence.

That’s why it’s so important to be able to speak to a professional in private, should they need to do so.

What challenges has the current climate placed on CAMSH resources?

We’re seeing a high volume or referrals coming into an already strapped service. There needs to be funding for CAMSH, before the impact of COVID-19 has a lifelong effect on the UK’s children.

Are you looking to pursue a career in mental health? If so, have a look at our current mental health opportunities. Whether you are a support worker looking for a new challenge or a qualified RMN looking for their next opportunity, we can help. Contact us today.

You may be interested in:

Shining the spotlight on those who work in mental health

Supporting workers on World Mental Health Day

How to manage mental health at work

How mindfulness can improve mental health at work