WHO Guide to Mental and Neurological Health in Primary Care
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Homepage :: General referral criteria for mental disorders :: Children and adolescents

Children and adolescents

Referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) should be considered in the following circumstances:

  • where the young person is displaying signs of suicidal intent
  • where assessment of the young person is not suitable for primary care (e.g., psychotic symptoms, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD])
  • where the young person is likely to require medication and treatment is not suitable for primary care (e.g., depressive disorder in a child, severe obsessive-compulsive disorder)
  • where the young person is so disabled that they cannot go to school or see friends
  • if the young person or parent requests a referral
  • where primary care or other options have failed.

Referral to other agencies may be necessary. Criteria include the following:

  • any form of suspected abuse (Social Services)
  • young person who is no longer in the care of their parents and is at risk of harming themselves or others (Social Services)
  • young person who is at risk of harming other children or adults (Police)
  • young person with school attendance problems (Educational Welfare Service)
  • young person with suspected specific learning disability (school special needs department)
  • young person with a substance misuse problem (local young personís drug and alcohol services).

Voluntary organizations can often help children and adolescents with emotional or behavioural problems - for example, the NSPCC, local parental support groups (eg ADHD groups) and parenting groups run through programmes such as Sure Start.

When making a referral to other service providers, the GP should have access to a local resource directory.

Referral letters

It is helpful if referral letters include as many as possible of the following:

  • patient's name, hospital number (if known), date of birth, address and telephone number
  • presenting complaint
  • reason for referral, including who wants what from whom
  • past medical and psychiatric history or contact, including whether this child or a sibling has been seen by CAMHS before
  • family and social background
  • developmental history
  • current medication
  • any drug and alcohol history
  • details of carers and significant others.

Last edited: 2/2/2004

(Page 2 of 2 in this chapter).

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