13 July 2020

During the lockdown, CAMHS teams were faced with the unique challenge of maintaining contact and engagement with young service users who were struggling to cope with the added burden of isolation.

Newham CAMHS Assistant Psychologist Janelle Spira describes how, despite all this, an inspirational film project got underway, with the young people leading it themselves: 

"Videos and YouTube are something our service users greatly enjoy. We thought it would be a good idea to build on this knowledge and enthusiasm. 

So together we came up with the idea to create a Newham CAMHS YouTube channel. The young people themselves felt that the whole experience of engaging with CAMHS should be described via the film format, in order to inform and explain to young people struggling with their mental health, and their families, what goes on at CAMHS and what you can expect to experience by engaging with the service.

They wanted to take the anxiety out of it, let people understand. 

They felt that it is important to realise that engaging with CAMHS can be very daunting. That it takes courage. And that people would appreciate someone explaining it to them.

Also, to break down the mystery of what a clinician does, what kinds of treatments there are, and how to prepare for your first appointment.

Despite the lockdown, the young people involved were enthusiastic.

They really wanted to make it happen, make it work. 

People took on different film making roles according to their interests - scriptwriting, acting, design and editing are all part of the mix.

Coming together regularly on Zoom became part of their weekly structure. It broke down the isolation some were feeling. 

Moving forward, they would like to work with other organisation and have really interesting plans around Mental Health Apps, some of which are very powerful therapeutic tools.

The experience of the pandemic has also had an impact on the Front Door teamwork Nehwam CAMHS does as well.

This was a project that started up before the lockdown. These are therapeutic workshops open to people from across the whole borough.

But by transitioning to an online forum, we actually found that the take-up increased.

Partly I think this is because it can be intimidating to attend a mental health clinic.

Taking part from the safety and comfort of your own home can alleviate these anxieties.

We want to make sure we build on these examples of success, that even during what was a really challenging and traumatic time for many of our service users, some things can be used to strengthen and enhance peoples' experience and involvement with CAMHS."

A CAMHS service user who is helping to lead the project said: 

"The best part is knowing that your voice has been listened to and being able to help other service users know that too. Helping another young person with the opportunities given to me by the service user group (which is open for all young people at Newham CAMHS) gives me the assurance that I am making a difference."

Newham CAMHS will be launching their YouTube video channel later this summer