What is mental health?

Mental health is about the way we think and feel. It can also be called ‘emotional wellbeing’. Our mental health can go up and down and change in the same way our physical health can. Just because someone has experienced a mental health problem at some stage in their life, it doesn’t mean they will always have this problem.

A mental health problem can happen to anyone, whatever their age, ethnicity, religion or IQ. Sometimes problems can develop when someone experiences something traumatic; like the death of someone close or bullying or abuse or a stressful family life. Sometimes problems appear out of the blue. It’s not the person’s fault and it’s nothing for them to be ashamed about.

There are lots of celebrities who have spoken publicly about having mental health problems including Demi Lovato, Frankie from The Saturdays, Johnny Wilkinson, Stephen Fry, Catherine Zeta Jones, Lady Gaga, Tom from McFly, Johnny Depp, David Beckham, Russell Brand and JK Rowling.

There is still a lot of misunderstanding about mental health, with newspapers and television often wrongly portraying people with mental health problems negatively. Fortunately, this type of stigma is being addressed by high profile campaigns such as Time to Change.

People may have different ideas and cultural beliefs about mental health. CAMHS respects this and will always try to work with and your family.

What is a mental health problem?

A mental health problem is when difficulties in the way we think and feel can mean that we find it hard to cope with family life, relationships, school or the wider world. Problems can range from everyday worries or stresses which are difficult but can be managed, to more serious problems.
For more information about specific mental health problems, check out the problems CAMHS works with

What is a diagnosis?

When you visit your doctor (general practitioner; GP) about a physical health problem, they talk to you about your symptoms, how long you have had them and the effect this has on your life. This helps them to diagnose what problem you have and to decide what treatment will be best for you.

In the same way, the people at CAMHS talk to young people and their families in order to better understand their problems , and to discuss with them how best to help. They may provide you with a diagnosis, which describes a group of symptoms or problems that often occur together. However, it is important to remember that not everyone’s problems fit neatly into one diagnosis or another.

Young people have lots of different thoughts about diagnosis. Here are some of the things they‘ve said:

  • I don’t like being labelled.
  • It’s helpful to have a name for what’s been going on for me.
  • I don’t just want to be known by my diagnosis.
  • It made me think, “Whoa! I must be really sick. This is serious and scary.”
  • Knowing what was wrong with me meant I could research more about it and knew where to look for advice on how to manage.
  • Will it follow me forever and affect my future?
  • It’s nice to know I wasn’t imagining it and there was something wrong.

If you’ve got any questions or concerns about diagnosis, please talk about this with your CAMHS worker.