Inspiring CAMHS ward staff to show their true colours


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. There are imaginative efforts by wards throughout the country that are expertly putting the CAMHeleon approach into practice, and this site exists to help get the word out.

It 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.

CAMHeleon offers a collection of achievable positive experiences young people can have while in hospital (both with help from others and independently), ways they may take advantage of these and how ward staff can offer support. These experiences are to do with: relationships, opportunity and self-expression, feel-good activities, supportive environments, links with home, understanding and being understood, safety, family and friends, recovery, and learning. Pretty much everything that's essential for a healthy and happy childhood!

The ‘COLOURFUL themes’, around which CAMHeleon is structured, aim to help CAMHS teams (along with co-piloting young patients) to create a masterpiece of inpatient care from the wide-ranging compendium of inspiration provided. Each theme reflects both an aspect of happy ward life and an important part of young people’s everyday wellbeing.

Working on a CAMHS ward is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs in healthcare. It’s also one of the most important, for how this work is put into action shapes in part the unique recovery journeys of the next generation, their breadth of life skills, and their perceptions about themselves and their place in our ever-shifting world.

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.


All CAMHS wards that manage to have all COLOURFUL Themes in place, often by creatively adapting the basic ideas, are eligible for the COLOURFUL Award.

Read about the CAMHeleon COLOURFUL Award here

CAMHeleon offers an accessible body of understanding and the potential tools and practice ideas garnered from experienced staff and existing material. CAMHeleon suggests, through a wealth of useful examples, that when young people’s emotional worlds are met and validated with sincerity, attention and containment, they are much more able to be mindful of triggers, find sanctuary, develop their resources, and explore new possibilities.
CAMHeleon provides the inspiring and encouraging raw material which may benefit the work done with some of the country’s most vulnerable people and their families, and therefore enhance the inpatient experience.

Dr Miranda Wolpert & Professor Peter Fonagy
Director Service Improvement and Evaluation Anna Freud Centre / Chief Executive of the Anna Freud Centre - Anna Freud Centre

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!


The CAMHeleon scheme is now closed