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Penny Millington QN, Learning Disability Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service
I work with children and young people who have a severe learning disability, helping them and their families achieve a better quality of life. My work involves liaising with the child/young person’s entire support network, to help them improve their social and emotional health and wellbeing. The work has many different aspects, and the interaction with each young person and their family is different depending on need.
I gain information to reduce behavioural difficulties, and give guidance, which I model through direct work with the child to help improve their mental health. Families can access the service directly, by referral from other agencies, an open door drop-in service, and parenting groups. I need to work flexibly to fit in with the lives of the children and young people and their families.
Wendy Sumpton QN, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service
As a clinical nurse specialist working in a child and adolescent mental health service, I see children of all ages up to 18. I work autonomously but also as part of the team, which can include psychiatrists; psychologists; and occupational, family and play therapists. We assess, diagnosis and treat children who have mental health problems, at their home or in a clinical setting.
We often talk about early identification and intervention. People begin to question that when it’s applied to children’s mental health, especially if the child in question is under five. The term ‘mental health’ has been stigmatized by all parts of society, but it should not be glossed over by disguising it with other terms such as wellbeing, or emotional state.
We all have ‘mental health’, and the children we see have ‘mental ill health’. To break this down further, it is necessary to look at the contextual components of a child’s overall health. This starts with gathering information from the parents, family and social networks. A detailed assessment is also undertaken, looking at the child’s pregnancy, birth and early life. All this information is then processed to help identify emerging problems.
Once a diagnosis is made interventions with the child and family can begin. Parents sometimes need to challenge and change their thoughts around ‘what is mental health’, to enable them to enact a change in their child. Working together with parents and the wider network connected to the child can reap rewards and may prevent further treatment in future.
Access to the child and adolescent mental health serviceusually needs a referral from a GP, who will first do a preliminary mental health assessment. In some areas referrals may be accepted from other professionals in health, education and social care.