Supporting disabled children, young people and their families: guidance

Guidance to help improve the experiences of disabled children, young people, and their families.

Mental health and wellbeing

In this section you can find information about… 

Scotland's Mental Health Strategy

The principles of Getting It Right For Every Child ensure that mental health and wellbeing needs of disabled children and young people are given appropriate priority – see the GIRFEC pages of our website for more information. Some mental health conditions cause disability, while poor mental health can also be experienced as a result of an impairment or long-term condition. The Mental Health Strategy (2017-2027) has a guiding ambition that mental health problems should be prevented and treated on an equal standing with physical health challenges. Initial actions include increasing the mental health workforce and improving support for preventative and less intensive services to tackle issues earlier. There are also plans to evaluate models of supporting mental health in primary care, and review the role of counselling services in schools.

The 10 year Child and Adolescent Health and Wellbeing Plan

We are  working with partners from the public and third sector to produce a 10-year Child and Adolescent Health and Wellbeing Action Plan which will cover both physical and mental wellbeing. Feedback from stakeholders so far has shown that there is a need the Plan to link across multiple areas which relate to the lives of children and young people. This should be done in a way which puts the child at the centre, takes a developmental rather than age based approach and avoids where possible putting children/young people and their experiences into 'boxes'. To achieve this a strong rights based approach will be threaded throughout the plan.

How Child and Adolescent Services (CAMHS) are organised

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are usually planned and provided by the local NHS board. They assess and treat children and young people, including those with disabilities, who have mental health, emotional or behavioural difficulties. Psychiatrists provide a major leadership role within CAMHS  within multidisciplinary  teams which also include specialist nurses, psychologists, social workers and other professionals.

How to access CAMHS Services

If there are mental health and wellbeing concerns such as emotional and behavioural difficulties, anxiety, low mood, in many instances help and advice can be obtained by talking to your doctor or health visitor, and in some situations a trusted member of the school team, a social worker, or a Paediatrician. If there are serious  or increasing concerns or immediate risks of harm then a referral can be made to CAMHS Services. This can involve an urgent call to the on-call team, or a formal note of referral, most often from your doctor.

Children and young people referred to specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) will be assessed on an individual basis and there may be circumstances when a referral will not be progressed. For example it may not meet the criteria for access to CAMHS, or there may be occasions where someone requires another intervention, such as the provision of practical advice, information or counselling, prior to, or in place of receiving treatment by CAMHS. Child and adolescent psychiatrists in general become directly involved in the assessment and management of children and young people presenting with more complex, severe, and more high risk problems. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has published their Guide When to see a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

There may be health and wellbeing issues affecting children and young people that are not mental health specific but that will help support and improve their mental health and wellbeing. These include using universal services, such as the new health visiting pathways, to support good mental health, prevention and early intervention. Exploring with education colleagues how best to support mental wellbeing in schools is also worthwhile, for example enabling teachers to deliver the mental wellbeing aspects of the "Curriculum for Excellence."

What happens if my child experiences bereavement?

If someone important to you has died or they're seriously ill, you can get support to help you cope. You could try talking to someone you trust, like a family member or close friend, your doctor or teacher. Making sure  that children across Scotland receive the best possible support and access to bereavement services is of great importance. There are many avenues through which children and their families can access bereavement such as Childline, Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland, Winston's Wish, Young Scot and Petal. Links to these and other resources can be found via the My Gov Scot Web page support.

Other sources of information and support for mental health and wellbeing

There are a number of helpful organisations and resources which can be accessed offering help and advice and information for young people and their families if there are mental health or wellbeing concerns such as stress related symptoms, anxiety, low mood, or feelings of self-harm. These can be accessed at any time and may be complimentary to other sources of support and in some cases mean that help from services such as CAMHS is not required.

Joshua's story: TalkTime Scotland

TalkTime Scotland is a unique charity offering free professional counselling (either face-to-face from its base in Leith or over Skype) to any young person aged 12-25 living in Scotland who is physically disabled or has a long-term physical illness. It was set up in 2014 by Joshua Hepple, who has cerebral palsy and his mother Seonaid Cooke, to celebrate Joshua’s graduation in Law from Stirling University.

As a wheelchair user, Josh felt socially isolated when he was at secondary school. However, Joshua did well in his Highers and managed to get a place at Stirling University to study Law where he lived on campus in disabled student accommodation.

Once he arrived at Stirling, he was able to access the university counselling service which he used regularly throughout his studies. He learnt to understand his moods and work out strategies to deal with negative emotions. The counselling also helped to build up his confidence so that he felt able to engage in student social life in a way that he had never done while at school, building relationships and getting involved in student politics.

A few days after graduation Joshua and his mother sat down and talked about setting up some kind of charity that would help to make a difference to other young disabled people. Joshua felt that if he had been able to speak to someone in confidence about how he was feeling as a vulnerable teenager, it would have been of immense help. As a result of this conversation, the idea for TalkTime came about. The charity has now helped dozens of young people with a wide range of conditions from cerebral palsy to muscular dystrophy, spina bifida and hidden disabilities such as diabetes, epilepsy and severe asthma.

Useful links
(some organisations and websites also offer Telephone support)

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