CAMHS: That Counselling Service I Love And Hate

CAMHS… The way I talk about my counselling, the nations counselling service for children and teenagers, you might think it is closer to hell than helpful. I’ll be fair and say I have experienced some good aspects of CAMHS in the few months I have been under their service, but at the same time I have had experiences that have only made my mental health worse. Yes, it is time for me to revisit the tales of my dreaded counsellor who managed to invent 13 people and allowed me to go home with a plan to kill myself. Today, I’ll talk about my experiences with CAMHS.

Well, when I first got the letter for my CAMHS counselling session I was excited. I had been dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts for months. In my eyes CAMHS was this miracle service that could end my depression and keep me on the right track to lead a “normal” life. I had read stories on the internet about people who had gone to CAMHS and received no help but that did not worry me as I had also read stories of the complete opposite. I knew if I did not get help soon (I was already seeing my GP but they not meant to be as good with mental health as CAMHS) I would probably end up doing something I would regret… or something I wouldn’t be able to regret. I started with CAMHS straight after New Years, it was on the first week of 2015.

I met my counsellor, I didn’t like my counsellor, they are probably the reason why I hate CAMHS so much. But at the time I met them I had only talked to one other person from CAMHS who I met at the hospital, and they were not nice to me. So now I had met two people from the same organisation who weren’t helpful, in fact they both made me feel worse. What did my counsellor do you might be thinking, I’ll tell you.

We’ll start off small. My counsellor is meant to talk through my problems with me, and when they have an idea or solution they also talk through that with me. Maybe these health professionals are also meant to jump to strange conclusions, but I doubt it. One time early in my counselling I was asked if I had ever drank alcohol, and I said yes as most teenagers have drank alcohol. I was then asked how often I drink alcohol to which I replied I don’t really drink alcohol very often. I am not sure whether my counsellor decided I am hiding something but even after talking to my dad about it she believes I drink regularly. I was in the room when she talked to my dad and my dad said I don’t really drink alcohol. This is one of the mysteries of CAMHS. The same happened when she asked if any of my friends drink or take drugs, and I said I do have friends who smoke occasionally. Apparently this means my friends have drinking and drug problems. That doesn’t make sense to me, another one of the mysteries of CAMHS.

My counsellor does make up things that I’ve never said quite frequently. They have managed to invent 11 friends I’ve never had while at the same time invent a dad and a sister that I’ve never had (unless I have a second dad and sister hiding somewhere). They’ve managed to make up events that have never happened such as panic attacks, which is why they have probably diagnosed me with mixed depressive and anxiety disorder, something they have never discussed with me and something I believe is wrong. If they make up so much stuff how can I believe their diagnosis? In fact I have my own rule which is whatever they diagnose me with is wrong. The worst part about all of this is that they broke confidentiality and sent all the wrong information to my parents in a letter. Fortunately the letter also had my name on it so I managed to get it before my parents, they never saw it.

This is not the worst thing about my counsellor. Imagine having a plan to kill yourself, trying to receive help, and the one person who is meant to help you the most has decided you don’t need help and sends you home with a plan to kill yourself. That is not quite what happened but it is close. One time, my counsellor could not be bothered to talk to me so they gave me a questionnaire to fill in while they left me alone in the room. The questionnaire had over 100 questions and took me a while to complete. Some of the questions were related to suicide, and one asked me if I had a plan to kill myself. I said yes. At the time I did not actually have a plan to kill myself but I was very suicidal and wanted some help, I was foolish to think my counsellor would help me. They read the questionnaire after and asked me about my plan, they then went to talk to their supervisor and came back deciding that I don’t need any help. They sent me home. That has taught me not to go to my counsellor when I actually do have a plan, I’ll go straight to the hospital instead. Maybe there they can actually help me.

And they can. The hospital is where I have experienced the better side of CAMHS. Twice I have gone to the hospital to see an out-of-hours CAMHS person whilst being under the service, the only other time was before I started with CAMHS and met a horrible person but I tend to forget about that. The first time I met a man who worked for CAMHS, this was when I had been prescribed some new medication which was making me more suicidal, a common side effect for teenagers apparently. This man so kind to me, we talked about video games for a while when we were meant to be talking about my suicidal thoughts, but actually that made me less suicidal. I don’t know whether that was his plan but it worked. He also realised it was the medication making me more suicidal and gave me a plan to stop the medication, and spoke to my counsellor asking to start new medication as soon as possible. That was a great experience. During this same visit to the hospital my parents arrived and started shouting at me, and a woman working at the hospital allowed me to stay in a separate area away from my parents. That may sound small but it meant so much to me. This visit to the hospital was the first time I realised that CAMHS was there to help me.

The second visit to the hospital was also a good experience, or at least as good as it can get while being suicidal. I had stabbed myself and was wanting to see a mental health worker to talk to about my suicidal thoughts. They told me an out-of-hours CAMHS worker was on their way. After waiting all night for this CAMHS person to appear, they finally did in the early hours of the morning. Our conversation did not seem long to me although it was over an hour, we talked about how life was for me an general and why I had come to the hospital specifically this time. They were very kind to me and they helped me a lot, we came up with a care plan that my CAMHS counsellor never did. I have actually requested that I have regular meeting with this person instead of my current counsellor, which would probably be the greatest thing CAMHS could do for me at that point.

So while my CAMHS counsellor is horrible and probably makes me feel worse, I know that there are people in the service who can help. When I look at CAMHS reviews online they always get very positive reviews or very negative reviews, and I can see why. CAMHS seems like a great service but it always depends who you talk to as that is the main thing about the service, it is mostly about talking. To anyone who has to start with CAMHS I would recommend trying it out, you can always request a different counsellor, or stop all together. At least if you try you might get help and you might get better. Now I’m hoping for my counsellor to be changed soon, the sooner the better…


This post is part of my Blogging A to Z April Challenge. The theme for yesterday was meant to be “CAMHS” but I fell asleep very early and could not publish it, so I’ve published it this morning. Later today I was focus on depression, the main theme of my blog. Watch this space!