Worried about your child's mental health?

Updated: Jan 4

Dr James Cook (a London based GP) writes about what to expect, when visiting your doctor, regarding your child's mental health.



It can be a scary time being worried about your child’s mental health. Fortunately there is lots of help available. From a GP’s perspective it's really helpful if you keep a diary of your concerns and speak to your child’s school about them. Often if you have concerns, they might do too.


During an appointment we would ask you a little about your set up at home, the history of your concerns and more generally about your child’s birth history and development. We focus on areas like their speech, behaviour and ability to make friends. We also like to know how their mental health affects them at home and school. Please don’t be alarmed if your GP asks whether your child self harms or has suicidal thoughts because this is how we assess risk. It’s really helpful if we can speak to your child as well as you.


We have lots of consultations with parents who are worried about their children’s mental health. Often these concerns can be dealt with by talking and advice on things that can be done to help. The majority of time no medication or onwards referral is needed.


If we think your child may have ADHD or Autism, we may refer your child to child and adolescent mental health services - commonly known as CAMHS. CAMHS are an excellent team made up of doctors, nurses and other medical staff who are experts in children’s mental health. They can provide therapy, formally diagnose a mental health condition and prescribe medication.


The waiting list for a CAMHS assessment can be long. However your GP can direct you to local support groups or parenting groups who can also give advice and support while you're waiting for assessment. If you feel the situation is worsening while you wait, please update your GP.


In certain cases for example if you child is self harming, having suicidal thoughts or hearing voices we would arrange help urgently. It’s important to know that help is available 24 hours a day whether that is by calling 999, the Samaritans (116 123), a mental health crisis line or by attending the A&E department.


Children’s mental health can be challenging. We would like you to know that you're not alone in having to deal with it and often just by talking about the issues they can begin to be dealt with.


Excellent NHS resources:

https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/childrens-mental-health/


7 ways to support children:

https://www.annafreud.org/schools-and-colleges/resources/7-ways-to-support-children-and-young-people-who-are-worried/


More information on CAMHS:

https://camhs.elft.nhs.uk/