mental health and wellbeing

Many children experience periods of anxiety or worry at times or they may have issues with their self-esteem, or face a particular challenge such as bereavement.

young woman leaning against treeChildren and young people with additional needs may be more vulnerable to certain mental health conditions because of their disability. Some children with autism, for example, can be more likely to develop anxiety, depression, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Mental health issues may also be harder to recognise in young people with disabilities because of communication difficulties, the complexity of their condition, or the fact that some mental health symptoms may be confused with their other symptoms.

For some of our children and young people, mental health issues will be their main area of need.

Helping yourselves

Talking through issues and worries with a family member or good friend may often be enough to help your child through a difficult phase in their mental health.

They (and you) can also get some excellent information and advice on things like low mood, anxiety and self-harm from the local digital wellbeing service, e-wellbeing or from national organisations like  Young Minds and Childline. Parent carers of 4-11 year olds can get parenting advice from child mental health experts at Place2Be: Parenting Smart. Their articles and videos cover specific issues like bedtimes and sibling rivalry, as well as common mental health conditions.

Amaze produces a useful fact sheet about mental health issues for children and young people with SEND, giving details of the local services that can help.

Or you can visit Sussex Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) website for online advice and signposting to services that may help.

If your child’s feelings are particularly distressing or persist over time, however, you may want to get external help.

Getting external help

Help via school
Brighton & Hove schools have a named primary mental health worker as part of the Schools Wellbeing Service. All secondary schools have a worker in place who can support school staff to work with children’s mental health and wellbeing and do some direct work, such as running groups. They are starting to extend this into primary schools too.

In East Sussex, there’s more local variation in what’s available directly through schools, but support might include seeing a practitioner, joining a nurture group, mindfulness or counselling. The majority of schools have a mental health lead and about a quarter of schools in East Sussex have a mental health lead governor.

Parents and carers should speak to the school SENCO (special educational needs coordinator) about what support is available in their child’s school

Online and drop-in counselling for young people

In both East Sussex and Brighton & Hove, young people can access e-counselling services. Young people can have an appointment with a counsellor once a week either via a video call or to exchange private, confidential messages via text.

13 to 17 year olds across Sussex (including Brighton & Hove) can access e-counselling via  e-wellbeing referral form

In East Sussex, e-motion also offers e-counselling for 12-18 year olds and young people aged 14-25 can also access mental health support from i-Rock Sussex via text, video or phone call from 11am to 6pm every day.

Drop-in counselling

There are drop-in counselling services for young people across Sussex. If you’re aged 11-25 and living in or around Brighton and Hove, you can access low cost counselling sessions at the Young People’s Centre. And 13-25s can access YAC’s Support and Advice Service.

i-Rock runs a virtual drop-in for young people aged 14-25 with limited face to face appointments in Hastings, Eastbourne or Newhaven. They can give advice on emotional and mental wellbeing, as well as jobs, education and housing

Community based support with mental health
Brighton & Hove Community Wellbeing Service provides a range of community-based short term therapeutic interventions for children and young people who are experiencing emotional or mental health problems that do not meet the threshold for Specialist CAMHS (see below). Short-term interventions may include face to face counselling, online counselling, therapy based activities, EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, support groups to help with issues such as worry and anxiety, mindfulness, brief interventions offering support and advice and family intervention where appropriate.

The Community Wellbeing Service is the front door to all mental health services in Brighton and Hove from 4 upwards

In East Sussex, parents, carers, young people and professionals should contact the Single Point of Advice (SPoA) to get support for 0-18 year olds who are experiencing social, emotional and mental health difficulties. Requests are considered at the hub by staff from Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and East Sussex County Council Children’s Services, who are experienced in mental health. The young person will then be offered advice or support according to their needs.

Families in both areas can get 24 hour advice, support and signposting from Sussex Mental Healthline

Find out more about mental health services for children and young people in East Sussex on East Sussex Local Offer.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)
Children and young people up to 18 with more acute mental health issues may be referred to CAMHS for diagnosis and assessment and some intervention. This includes children with issues like anxiety and depression, eating disorders and self-harming. CAMHS is made up of specialist teams including child psychiatrists, family therapists, counsellors, and play and art therapists.

There are also certain conditions for which CAMHS is the normal route to be assessed or diagnosed, eg ADHD. But your GP or other professional would refer you to CAMHS in this instance.

In Brighton & Hove, you or a professional who works with your child can refer to CAMHS, through the Brighton and Hove Wellbeing Service.

In East Sussex, you could ask your GP, your child’s teacher, SENCO or another professional who works with your child to ask for a referral. Or you can contact your local East Sussex CAMHS team directly for more advice on whether CAMHS is the right place to offer support.

CAMHS Learning Disability Teams

Both Brighton & Hove and East Sussex have CAMHS Learning Disability teams who give additional support to families of children who have a learning disability when there is concern about their emotional wellbeing or mental health, or there is difficulty managing their behaviour. The teams include specialists such as clinical psychologists, consultant psychiatrists, family support workers and therapists. They will develop an individual plan for your child and work closely with you.

For more information on accessing mental health services in Sussex visit:

Brighton and Hove Wellbeing Service

Mental health support for young people in East Sussex

Dealing with a crisis
If you or your young person want to speak to someone immediately, you can contact ChildlineSanelineHOPELineUK or the Samaritans. YoungMinds textline offers 24/7 messenger support to any young person struggling to cope.

The Sussex Mental Health Line also provides crisis care 24 hours a day, seven days a week to anyone in Sussex needing urgent mental health support or just a listening ear. Call 0800 0309 500 or 0300 5000 101.

In the event of an urgent crisis, you should contact your GP or named CAMHS clinician. And if you have an urgent physical and mental health crisis you should attend the children’s A&E department at the Royal Alex. Or call 999 for an ambulance or help from the police..


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