What is CAMHeleon?



CAMHeleon is a colourful collection and celebration of Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) ward best practice. It showcases a sparkly palette of ideas, articles, quotes, research and resources about therapeutic CAMHS care. The site focuses on the things that really make a positive difference to young inpatients, identifying small changes that have a big impact. Its overall objective is to support ward staff in enabling young people to really make the most of this time away from their usual lives.

Other settings beyond mental health inpatient care may also find lots of value here - for example, community services, schools, universities, psychological therapies, social work, and youth work. Feel free to adapt the content to suit your setting (but if you do please tell us so we can share your work with others!).

Developed by the same team (consisting of a group of experienced ward staff and service users) who created Star Wards, CAMHeleon is a source of practical inspiration, encouragement and resources for ward staff who work in mental health hospitals for young people. Young people, their families, carers and friends may also find the site helpful as it paints a picture of wards at their very best, along with a variety of therapeutic experiences service users can expect.

Nationally, around one in 10 children aged between five and 16 has a mental health problem, the equivalent of three in every classroom. While CAMHeleon's content focuses on older inpatients (11 to 18, referred to as 'young people'), it will also be useful for the range of CAMHs services and clients.
CAMHeleon and Star Wards Inspiring inpatient care
CAMHeleon’s contents are informed by research into aspects of young people’s wellbeing and how CAMHS wards can best provide and support these collaboratively. It’s got the important big stuff like: attachment theory, neurobiological research, relational and physical safety, peer support, self-expression, recovery skills and qualities, mentalising and mindfulness, and has a focus on learning and growth. However, its content aims to be highly inspiring and accessible rather than extensive.

A lot of the practice examples (there are over 500!) are based on the tried-and-tested daily work of creative and caring ward teams who dedicate themselves to the care of our most vulnerable young people. We’re really grateful for the support and input from the teams at Woodland House (South London and Maudlsey NHS Foundation Trust), St Andrew's Northampton adolescent service and Anna Freud Centre.
CAMHeleon is more Rothko than reptile. We’ve partially taken inspiration from the humble chameleon (hence the site’s name!), although the site has absolutely nothing to do with lizards (it’s mostly because the ‘cham’ bit worked well as a CAMH pun). Most people think chameleons change colour to camouflage into the background so they can’t be seen. It turns out, however, that their vibrant display of technicolour is mostly about adaptability, communication and self-expression. These are, of course, essential qualities for everyone, especially young people.

CAMHeleon is the younger sister of Wardipedia.org which is a huge collection of ideas, examples, information and research about therapeutic mental health inpatient care.
Inside CAMHeleon...

  • How therapeutic relationships can nurture healthy development and gentle movement towards a young person’s own idea of holistic success

  • The importance of involvement, influence and self-expression, and the benefits of shared decision making

  • Championing constructive, therapeutic, meaningful and enjoyable ward activities

  • How caring connections and relationships are essential for happiness, and the feel-good factors of community spirit, generosity, kindness and respect

  • Helping young people to make the most of their time on the ward through getting a good understanding of both their current situation, what led to it, and the choices available to them

  • Creating an environment that reduces anxiety and enables young people to feel emotionally and physically secure, especially when in crisis.

  • The importance of involvement of and contact with parents, carers, family and friends

  • Helping young patients to find hope, learn new skills and move forward in their recovery and developmental journey

  • Finding a good balance between the young person’s right to education and what they can take on board while feeling unwell

The funky graphic below shows how caring relationships are at the heart of every part of life on CAMHS wards, and that each theme is interrelated. Go ahead and click a colour!