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Asking for professional support

Photo: All parents want to do the best for their child, but sometimes they might need professional help.

If you think your child might have a mental health condition, you should seek professional help. Some children and young people benefit from psychological therapy, such as counselling or therapy. There are lots of different forms of psychological therapy, and your GP should be able to help you decide which form is best for your child and how to access it. In many areas, there may be specialist help available for deaf children and deaf people with varying communication needs.

Before you go to the GP, talk to your child about what you’re going to ask the doctor. If your child is old enough, encourage them to speak to the GP themselves, and ask them if they’d like you to go into the office with them or wait outside. Watch our video for advice on how to help deaf children visit the doctor independently. If your child would prefer you to do the talking, make sure they feel involved in the conversation and agree with the direction of treatment. 

The GP will ask questions about your child’s emotions and behaviours, including how long they have been feeling this way. It may be helpful to make a note of your mutual concerns in advance of the appointment in case either you or your child forget anything on the day.

If your child is a British Sign Language (BSL) user, make sure that the GP is aware of this when you book the appointment and ask them to book a registered BSL interpreter. It will be easier to be honest about your concerns if you’re not also having to interpret for your child at the same time.

Your GP may not be aware of specialist support for deaf children in your area. Try to research what is available in advance so that you can help the GP identify the most appropriate treatment. Inform your GP about Deaf CAMHS as they may not be aware of this specialist service in particular. Your GP will be able to refer your child to CAMHS or Deaf CAMHS if they think your child needs further assessment. You might also find it helpful to speak to your child’s Teacher of the Deaf or school staff about specialist services in your local offer.

If you live in England, your child may be eligible for treatment by Deaf CAMHS. The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) is an NHS service which assesses and treats children and young people with emotional, behavioural or mental health problems. Deaf CAMHS is a specialist service for deaf children with mental health conditions. They specialise in supporting deaf children and young people who have an assessed level of mental health difficulties and meet any of the following criteria:

  • Are severely to profoundly deaf
  • Have a speech and language impairment related to moderate to profound deafness
  • Use British Sign Language (BSL) as their first language
  • Have deaf parents.

There are four Deaf CAMHS teams in England, based in York, London, Somerset and Dudley. Your GP should refer you to the team closest to you. The team may then arrange to visit your child at home or at school.

If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, your local CAMHS may be able to seek advice from Deaf CAMHS to help support your child.

For more information on Deaf CAMHS, read our interview with Eleanor, a Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapist at Deaf CAMHS.

If your child is not eligible for Deaf CAMHS, they may be referred to CAMHS instead. CAMHS stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. Children and young people are referred to CAMHS for lots of different reasons, from difficulty sleeping or controlling anger, to eating disorders, anxiety or depression. Your local authority will have its own CAMHS team, made up of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who are specially trained to support children, young people and their families. A more detailed explanation of the services you and your child might expect from CAMHS is available on YoungMinds.

Once you have been referred to CAMHS, they will help you and your child to understand the difficulties they’re experiencing and work with you to find a solution. If your child is offered a psychological therapy such as counselling, make sure that the therapist is aware of basic deaf awareness, such as making sure your child can see their face during sessions. It may be helpful to share our deaf awareness advice with the therapist in advance.

Not all children need to be treated by CAMHS. Even if your child is referred to CAMHS, there may be a long waiting list for treatment. In some cases, your child’s school might be able to offer counselling and support. Other useful organisations who may help you and your child are listed below.

  • Childline Deaf Zone
    Advice and support for deaf children up to the age of 18 in English and BSL. You can speak to a counsellor over the phone, online chat or via SignVideo.
  • YoungMinds
    The UK's leading charity supporting children and young adults' mental health.
  • Build Sound Minds
    Action for Children's campaign to improve the emotional wellbeing of children and young people. 
  • Place2Be
    A children's mental health charity providing counselling and mental health support and training in UK schools.
  • Anna Freud Centre
    A nationwide children's charity providing training and support for child mental health services.
  • Mind
    Mental health charity providing advice and support to children, young people and adults who are experiencing mental health difficulties.
  • Scope
    Disability equality charity providing practical advice and emotional support in England and Wales.
  • SignHealth
    A UK charity dedicated to providing access to healthcare for the deaf community, including information on psychological therapy for people over the age of 16.
  • Deaf4Deaf
    A deaf counselling and psychotherapy service for deaf people and children of deaf adults (CODA) over the age of 16.
  • SignHealth Abuse Prevention videos
    Videos designed to educate children and young people about staying safe from different forms of abuse, in BSL and English. Please watch to check content is age-appropriate to your child before sharing.