Mental Health and Mental illness

What Is Mental Health?

Mental health refers to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. We all have mental health. Our mental health affects how we think, feel, and act. It also impacts on how we cope, interact and form relationships with others, as well as our daily functioning.

Our mental health can vary and be dependent on a number of factors which may include;


What is Mental illness?

Mental health is different from mental illness (which can also be referred to as having a mental health disorder). Poor mental health and struggling to cope is also different from having a mental illness. A mental illness or mental health disorder is an illness that affects that way people think, feel, behave, or interact with others. There are many types of mental illnesses/ health disorders with different signs and symptoms.

Generally, the difference between poor mental health and a mental illness is the nature of and degree to which the difficulties someone is experiencing are having on their wellbeing and functioning (socially, occupationally and academically). Mental illness typically has more of a significant detrimental impact across many areas of an individual’s life than episodes of poor mental health which may be situation specific or time limited.

Anyone of any age, gender, geographical background, race, ethnicity, class, background, religion, ability, appearance, culture, caste, education, economic status, spirituality, sexual orientation can experience mental illness.


Factors that contribute towards good mental health and emotional wellbeing

It is important to have the basics of wellbeing consistently practised and in place. Young people may need help establishing and maintaining these wellbeing practices:

How adult caregivers can support a young person struggling with their mental health

Ensure you have support for yourself; ask for help or let someone know if you are struggling either with your own emotional and mental health or if you are struggling with supporting a young person.


Role model that you are human too; normalise and validate that we all have thoughts and feelings and can experience difficulties and struggles with our emotional and mental health.


Share information; joined up working between adult caregivers (e.g., home and education) ensures consistency and containment for young people.


Be calm, consistent , clear and boundaried, as well as kind and compassionate.


Remember that your verbal and nonverbal communication and responses will have an impact on how a young person thinks, feels and behaves.


Work with a young person to help them better understand , express and communicate how they are thinking and feeling.

General CAMHS Referral Guidance

 What we do, what we don’t do and what you can do if you are worried about your child

Below is a general guide to help you decide what may be helpful for your child.


Coping/ Need for Support

Nature (type) of Difficulties

  • Common worries or difficulties that many young people experience
  • Difficulties are often situation specific (e.g., happened after a specific event) or last only for a short time
  • Limited impact on daily functioning (e.g., ability to go to or cope at school, play with friends, engage in hobbies or interests)
  • Limited impact on physical or emotional wellbeing
  • Difficulties in line with typical childhood or adolescence

What To Do

  • Self-help resources/ guided self-help (things a young person can look at themselves or together with the support of a parent/ carer or professional). Such as Hampshire CAMHS website.
  • Talking to family or friends
  • Support from school/ GP
  • Support from youth organisations
  • A referral to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service should not be considered as a first response. Consider referring to other agencies in the first instance.


Need for Help

Nature (type) of Difficulties

  • Common worries or difficulties which may be causing more distress than would be expected.
  • Level of distress is out of context to the situation/ event/ incident.
  • Episodes of worry, sadness, anger or distress may be more frequent or last longer than anticipated or expected.
  • Some impact on functioning which has lasted at least a few weeks (e.g., ability to go to or cope at school, play with friends, engage in hobbies or interests).

What To Do

  • Follow the Green stage steps AND consider accessing help, advice and support from:
  • School nursing team/ ELSA/ pastoral support
  • Counselling services/ 1:1/ group support
  • Youth organisations
  • Emotional health/ mental health specific resources e.g.
  • Helplines such as:

Young Minds Parents Helpline: 08088025544

Family Lives Helpline: 08088002222


Need for Specialist Intervention/ Crisis management

Nature (type) of Difficulties

  • Difficulties are severe and enduring (difficulties have lasted longer than several weeks).
  • Significant distress to the young person and or the family/ network.
  • Significant disruption to daily life and functioning (e.g., ability to go to or cope at school, play with friends, engage in hobbies or interests).
  • Presenting as a risk to themselves or others.
  • Despite accessing and trying support in stages Green and Amber, difficulties persist.
  • Signs of physical compromise (becoming physically unwell).

What To Do

  • Follow the Green and Amber stages AND:
  • See your child’s GP.
  • Seek advice from helplines.
  • Access the Hampshire CAMHS website crisis support page HERE
  • Consider a referral to CAMHS


  • Alfred & Shadow - A short story about emotions (education psychology health animation
  • Alfred & Shadow - A short story about emotions (education psychology health animation