22 July 2019

Building connections and partnerships in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)

Jamie Stafford, Improvement Advisor and Fiona Stockley, Business and Performance manager discuss their project for a population of adolescents at risk of self-harming.


One of the features of the triple aim work that CAMHS are most proud of so far has been engaging with schools and other local stakeholders and building trusting relationships. So far, we have partnered with schools from Luton, Bedfordshire, Newham and Hackney, and several local authority and third sector organisations.
It has been exciting to reach out into the system of organisations that support young people, and to explore how we might work together better, anchoring our conversations in what the young people say matters to them. It has been fantastic to learn more about the great work that already happens across this system, and think about how we might improve it.
To launch the work, each CAMHS team approached their local Director of Education, and then agreed on an appropriate school to work with based on reported self-harm prevalence, and keenness to collaborate. Other stakeholders naturally sprung from the initial partnerships based on their activity with local young people, and links with CAMHS and the school. It felt good to challenge the traditionally ‘siloed’ nature of our public services, by bringing people together.
Working with a diverse range of professionals has allowed for some remarkable learning. Working with different organisations (with distinct values and cultures) has led to rich discussions about the factors influencing the wellbeing of young people, and how we might work systemically to promote and support wellbeing. This has been possible due to the humility in which the teams have approached the project, and a shared respect of the value each organisation brings to the group.
By really listening to the voices of young people talking about such a sensitive and complex subject, we have been able to think about changes that we can make to the system to better support them. While it is clear from the interviews with young people that the support they receive from services is important, it is also notable that peer-support is critical. In many cases, we have heard that young people often speak to their friends about self-harm long before their parents or public services are aware of their self-harm. It follows therefore that much of our improvement efforts should be aimed at helping young people to support each other, as well as helping them bolster their own resilience.
Each of the four teams are highlighting some initial tests of change to try when schools resume in September. We are also developing a measurement strategy so that we can understand the impact of the changes both locally within the schools, and collectively across the four geographies.

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