young mental health Children and young people in Wales would prefer to receive support for their wellbeing and mental health from their friends, school counselling services and teachers, according to a report. 

There is also a call to introduce stricter referral criteria to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) to avoid “medicalis[ing] growing up”.

The report, titled Making Sense, published by four mental health charities – Hafal, Mental Health Foundation, Bipolar UK and Diverse Cymru – and Wales Observatory on Human Rights of Children and Young People, includes results of a consultation involving more than 500 people. 

When NHS-provided CAMHS users were asked who they would prefer to receive support from, 56% said friends, 44% said school, college and university counselling services and 39% said teachers.

In November 2014, Health & Social Services Minister Professor Mark Drakeford launched a review of CAMHS after referrals to the service more than doubled from 2010 to 2014. Professor Drakeford has said many referrals to CAMHS referrals are ‘inappropriate’ and turn out not to need specialist support.  

The report makes 10 recommendations to improve services, including suggesting strict referral criteria are introduced so that children and young people receive support that is appropriate to their needs. 

It says teachers, school, college and university counselling services, and other youth services must play a major role in supporting the wellbeing and development of all children and young people, including those who have mental health problems. 

The report also found that three-quarters of CAMHS users had a negative experience of it. Although children and young people found CAMHS friendly and approachable, less than half said the service helped them get better and move on. 

Mair Elliott, a former CAMHS user who was involved in writing the report, said: “We all go through ups and downs growing up – these are normal and do not require the help of mental health services. Only those children and young people with the highest needs should be supported by specialist CAMHS. We must not medicalise growing up.”