Most young people who leave CAMHS do not see a worsening of symptoms
Most young people who stop using childhood and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) after reaching the upper age limit of CAMHS do not see a decline in their symptoms, research has found.
- · The mental health of most transition-aged young people (between 16-19 years) in CAMHS improved over two years
- · Young people who left CAMHS and no longer received care reported less mental health problems than young people who transitioned to adult mental health services (AMHS)
- · A small subgroup of participants reported worsening mental health after leaving CAMHS – more research is needed to understand why and to help GPs identify these individuals, ensuring they receive appropriate AMHS care
The study, published today in The Lancet Psychiatry, involved scientists from Universities across Europe, including the University of Warwick and Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam. It followed more than 700 young people, with an average age of 17.5 years, and repeated assessments on their mental health symptoms and treatment over a two-year period in which they transitioned from CAMHS to AMHS, stayed in CAMHS, or left mental health care altogether.
Although approximately half of young people reaching the upper age limit of their CAMHS stop using mental health services, this was not associated with a deterioration in their mental health. The research also revealed that those with more severe mental health problems continued to receive care with AMHS.
This is positive news, according to Professor Dieter Wolke from the University of Warwick, and highlights the resilience of young people. He said: “As a developmental psychologist, the results make sense. Clinicians may underestimate young people’s ability to adapt, learn to cope with challenges and master transitions.”
Professor Swaran Singh, Chief Investigator on this MILESTONE project, from the University of Warwick, added: “Despite the positive findings, there remains the small subgroup of participants whose mental health deteriorated following CAHMS treatment. This highlights an area for further research, to investigate why this is the case and help GPs to identify these young people.
“It is important that GPs take young adults with renewed complaints seriously and refer them quickly to adult psychiatry; investments should be made to improve transition care for these young people specifically. Regular community follow-up is necessary to identify the minority of youth who showed deterioration in their mental health and need further psychological or psychiatric support.”
Researchers based in the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam who led the study, Suzanne Gerritsen and child and adolescent psychiatrist Gwen Dieleman, are keen to highlight the journey it takes to receive the care they need. Suzanne comments: “It is important to note that our findings do not provide insight into the struggle young people have finding the care they need, even though they may eventually find appropriate care. For example, waiting lists are still a big problem in many countries and navigating the pathway between CAMHS and AMHS could be improved for young people.”
The research is part of the MILESTONE study, is a collaboration between the Erasmus MC (Rotterdam, the Netherlands), Yulius (Dordrecht, the Netherlands), Warwick University (Coventry, UK) and institutes in six other EU countries. The MILESTONE study was funded by the European Commission (FP7).
Further details of the research can be found here: MILESTONE Project (warwick.ac.uk)
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18 November 2022