CAMHS: a most inappropriate sounding acronym. My experiences of our local CMHS were anything but calming.
Today I want to tell you only about our first contact with CAMHS and to contrast our experience with that of our first contact with the community paediatrician.
Several years ago, we were referred to CAMHS for reasons which are irrelevant to our story and we turned up - the whole family. We were met by a consultant child psychiatrist and a community mental health worker. Immediately Mrs Carr and I were uncomfortable. We were asked about the children and their development and interactions, and then followed questioning of Mrs Carr and me about adult personal issues with the children present. The children were questioned in front of us.
We knew this was wrong but, for some reason, neither of us was able to say that we should be not be talking in front of the children and vice versa. Eventually after about 90mins this torture finished.
I wrote to the consultant pointing out our discomfort and suggesting that, in future, we should have time to talk separate from the children. I didn't receive a reply.
Some time later I was speaking to the community mental health worker and I mentioned our first interview and my view that, in general, families should be offered the opportunity to talk separately to the clinicians.
"Oh, we don't do that. If the parents ask then we'll do it."
How thoughtless, how disrespectful. They bring families, probably nervous, into their environment and fire away at the questions putting the entire onus on the family to ask to change the setting.
This is not a major failing but it is so unnecessary and is indicative of what is likely to follow. In our case what followed was much worse than we could have imagined but this must remain private.
A few years later one child was referred to a community paediatrician and Mrs Carr, I and child turned up but this time determined to mention, at the beginning, about talking separately. Our concerns were unnecessary. We met two clinicians and they made the point in their introduction that we and child would have the opportunity to talk privately.
What a difference this made!
And it continued. They listened. They acknowledged. They reinforced. They respected.
Two departments - only doors apart - but a million miles apart in attitude.
Thank you, community paediatrics. Top class!
CAMHS, you have so far to go, so many lessons to learn.