Your child’s mental health is important in family dynamics. As parents, we all want the best for our children and our families and when a child’s mental health starts to take a tumble or school absence begins to climb it can be difficult to know where to turn.
This blog aims to explain about the services and place you can get support, some local to Devon, Cornwall and Somerset and some national services. I’ll indicate in each instance what area the service covers to help you choose the right place to reach out for you and your family.
If your child is still on a school roll (and unless you’ve deregistered them then they will be, even if there is extended school absence) then this would be my first port of call. In primary school, set up some time to talk with the class teacher. They may be able to support your child in class and may refer you on to someone else in the school or community who is able to help.
At secondary schools there is a wider team of support. Some people you might want to talk to are:
- The pastoral team or Head of Pastoral Support
- The SENDCo, who coordinates special needs in schools (and specialists like Educational Psychologists)
- The Head of House or Head of Year
- The Attendance Officer
Last year, all schools (primary and secondary) were entitled to a pot of money for training a Mental Health Lead within their team. Ask if there is someone with this role who may be able to help with your child’s mental health. It may feel difficult starting a conversation at school, particularly if your child has been in trouble or you’ve been receiving letters about school absence but please rest assured, teachers are used to conversations about family concerns and it is always better that they have an understanding of your child’s situation.
Your GP (local)
It sounds obvious, but your GP may be able to help or direct you towards services that can support your child, even with school absence. When I was teaching, I usually advised parents seeking help from school to also contact their GP as a two-pronged approach towards CAMHS (see the next section).
CAMHS stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. They offer a range of support to help your child’s mental health, although the waiting list for an initial appointment across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset is very long.
CAMHS Devon run a 24/7 mental health crisis team which can be reached on the freephone number 080818968708 https://childrenandfamilyhealthdevon.nhs.uk/camhs/
CAMHS Cornwall has a wealth of information on their website about further help https://www.cornwallft.nhs.uk/camhs/ You can also call them on 01209 881 600 for support.
CAMHS Somerset operate a single point of access for all their services who can be reached on 0300 1245 012. They accept self-referrals for 16-17 year olds, but parents of younger children will need to access support through school or a GP.
Early Help (local)
Early Help is run by each local authority. It’s the initial response offered by all services in contact with children, young people and families when they need extra support to thrive. It’s not a specific service or team but an approach to working that brings people from different services (health, education, social support) together to support your family. You can access early help by speaking with any service that interacts with your child.
As well as services to support your child’s mental health there are many great charities who are able to offer advice or help. Here’s some of my favourite places to stop by:
Young Minds (National)
Young Minds is a charity that supports children and young people and is my go-to place to support teens in distress. I love the way that their website speaks so clearly and directly and have always found it a valuable wealth of information and good advice on a range of feelings, fears and experiences that young people may be facing. Reach out to https://www.youngminds.org.uk/ for support or text YM 85258 for help.
Action for Happiness (National)
My favourite thing from Action for Happiness is their monthly calendar
https://actionforhappiness.org/calendar which operates around a theme and has tasks for happiness on each day. You can get monthly calendar updates sent directly to your inbox – I’ve always found the tasks an engaging and fun way to fit a little enjoyment into life.
Parenting Mental Health (National)
We all know the advice of putting your own oxygen mask on first. This charity supports the parents of children experiencing mental health difficulties, because let’s face it, supporting our children as they struggle can be tough on us too. The charity runs a Facebook group, regular online sessions, and offers a wealth of support from parents with lived experience. Sometimes knowing that you are not alone in this is the support we need. https://www.parentingmentalhealth.org/
Childline offer support and guidance to children along with a confidential, free advice line 0800 1111, email service and online counselling support. https://www.childline.org.uk/get-support/ They can be a great place for children to turn to when they don’t want to talk to the adults around them.
Spark UK (National)
Based in North Devon, Spark UK is run by teenagers for teenagers. It’s a mental health charity that creates projects and resources for schools across the UK. You can find out more at https://www.sparkuk.co.uk/
Kooth (Devon, Cornwall and Somerset)
Kooth is a digital mental health and wellbeing company providing a welcoming space for children and young people. To access Kooth you can create an account and log in at https://www.kooth.com/ using your postcode and year of birth. Kooth is popular with schools in the South West and promote the site to children for everything from bullying to confidence to school absence.
The Wave Project (Saunton, Westward Ho!, Newquay & Bude)
Cornwall based charity The Wave Project support mental health and wellbeing for children through the power of surf therapy. You can self-refer on their website for one of their 6-week surf packages. Older children (aged 14+) can train as Surf Mentors and support others in learning to surf. Contact them through their website https://www.waveproject.co.uk/
Family Compass (Barnstaple)
Family Compass are a charity based in Barnstaple who support children and families to improve their mental health and wellbeing before they reach crisis point. You can reach them on 07873 759 364 https://www.familycompass.co.uk/
Families in Grief (FIG) North Devon and Torridge
Families in Grief support young people and their families who are experiencing bereavement in the North Devon and Torridge areas. If you need their support explore their website https://familiesingrief.org/