Brain Sciences


New study looks at how to improve mental health services for young people

27 May 2022

A new study led by Dr Becky Appleton (Division of Psychiatry) reveals gaps in young people’s access to mental health support, and shows that a better handover between child and adolescent mental health services and GPs is needed.

therapy sesion

The study, involving researchers from the University of Basel and Keele University, investigated the experiences and perspectives of young people who are receiving mental health support, along with their parents/carers. The aim was to identify how access to support could be improved.

The researchers found that young people and their parents struggled to navigate a disjointed care pathway.

Young people are often discharged to their GP when they reach the upper boundary of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), but little is known about young people’s experiences of accessing mental health support from their GP after leaving CAMHS. The research suggests that the handover is poorly managed, and GPs can struggle to support young people without input from specialist services.

The researchers interviewed young people and their parents in two English counties: London and West Midlands. They identified problems that fell within three broader themes: unmet mental health needs, disjointed care, and taking responsibility for the young person’s mental health care.

Barriers included the perception that GPs couldn’t prescribe certain medication, anxiety caused by the general practice environment, and having to move to a new practice at university. Young people’s positive experiences were more likely to include having a long-term relationship with their GP and finding that their GP made time to understand their needs and experiences.

The research shows that there is a need for a comprehensive handover of care from CAMHS to GPs, which could include a joint meeting with the young person and a member of the CAMHS team. GPs could then help to meet the unmet needs of young people unable to access specialist mental health services after leaving CAMHS.

Dr Appleton said: “The problem of 'falling through the gap' between services is an extremely important, but little known, issue in the way mental health services are currently structured. People can end up being 'too ill' for services designed to meet mild mental health needs, but 'not ill enough' to access specialist services, which focus on people with more severe needs. Future research should focus on interventions which improve continuity of care for young people after leaving CAMHS, and collaborative working across community mental health services.”


Photo by Alex Green on Pexels