Category Archive: Blog

Responding to Anxiety and Depression Conference


By Nina Martynchyk



I am so happy that mental health is slowly becoming less of a taboo topic in society. As someone who has personal experience of mental illness, I know only too well how comforting it feels to be able to speak about your issues freely with the knowledge that instead of being judged, you are being supported and understood. As mental health education is key to the continuation of the collective acceptance of mental health, I have decided to dedicate lots of my time to organising mental health conferences aimed at clinicians, teachers, parents and anyone else who is interested.

So far, I have organised two conferences. The first one was called ‘Responding to Eating Disorders in Children and Young People’ (Anorexia, Bulimia and OSFED) and ran on the 3rd September 2016. The latest one, ‘Responding to Anxiety and Depression in Children and Young People’ took place three weeks ago on the 1st of April 2017.



The day was opened by Claire Eastham, mental health blogger and bestselling author of ‘We’re all Mad Here’ and chaired by Samantha Swinglehurst MBE, lead nurse specialist at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. The presentations were delivered by both professionals and service users in order to provide a well-rounded view of mental illness. The talks were informative, inspiring and really helped to break down myths surrounding mental disorders that are sadly still prevalent in society.

One of the talks came from ‘J.T’, a young woman who suffers with both Borderline Personality Disorder and Anxiety. She spoke about her personal struggles with these illnesses, the ways in which her anxiety can exacerbate her BPD as well as the negative stereotypes that surround the disorder. To counteract the assumption that BPD suffers are attention-seeking, she said, ‘People with BPD aren’t attention-seeking or manipulative, we are in excruciating pain and struggle to communicate/ manage this pain effectively’. ‘J.T’ then went on to say ‘If someone so desperately wants attention to the point that they are willing to hurt themselves, that in itself is a problem, and they are no less deserving of support.’

In addition to J.T’s very powerful presentation, the other talks included a medical overview of anxiety and depression and the benefit of mindfulness on emotional wellbeing. There were also resources available in the breaks from stands ran by HeadCase, The Charlie Waller Trust, MQ and Jessica Kingsley Publishers. There was also a lovely Waitrose lunch and lots of teas, coffees and biscuits to keep everyone energised!

It was a very powerful experience to be surrounded by so many people who care about mental health and want to improve the lives of children and young people. As Claire Eastham said, who suffers with anxiety herself, ‘Days like these are the only times when I really feel like I can be myself.’

Even though it’s great that she felt like she could be herself, I hope that one day everyone who is struggling can feel comfortable enough to be themselves every day in every kind of environment.

With this wish in mind, I have already started organising the next conference which will be on mental illness in boys and young men so stay tuned!!!

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Understanding as a path to recovery


By Nina Martynchyk


“There is a voice that doesn’t use words, listen.” -Rumi

When I entered hospital, I remember having a very strong sense of ‘does anyone get what I am going through?’ I was suffering with debilitating depression and a very severe eating disorder that had left me locked in my own darkness. After continuously feeling rejected by many people in my life, I felt extremely isolated and had an aching desire to feel supported and understood.

Luckily, I was cared for by many members of staff who would do their absolute best to make sure that I felt noticed, valued and most importantly, understood. They would frequently remind me that I could talk to them whenever I wanted, whilst making sure that I knew there wasn’t any pressure to do so if I didn’t feel up to it. The importance of working at the young person’s pace to ensure their feeling of safety and containment is stated on CAMHeleon. It states, ‘Through mindful and sensitive work, the team, always working at the young person’s pace, forms a relationship with them where the young person can begin to explore their thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and gradually work through their difficulties.’ I am deeply appreciative of the fact that the staff didn’t force me to open up when I didn’t want to, consequently meaning that I didn’t end up feeling more overwhelmed than I was already feeling.

Due to the fact that I often didn’t feel like talking about what was going on for me when I felt down, the staff would think of various different ways to try and make me feel better. One of the ways that they would try to do this was by taking me to cafés, the park and the cinema and I remember finding these excursions to be enormously beneficial to my mood. Not only would they distract me from my problems but they would also instil a sense of normality in me that was greatly missing from my life. As stated by CAMHeleon, ‘caring’s also about remembering how it feels to be a child and putting yourself in your kid’s shoes. It means lightening up, being playful, and having a laugh.’ Doing fun activities with the staff also gave me the opportunity to strengthen my therapeutic bond with them, consequently meaning that I found it easier to open up to them when I needed their support.

When I did talk to the staff about what was on my mind, the conversations that I found to be the most helpful were the ones which felt like they were between two humans, instead of between a member of staff and a ‘broken’ patient who needed to be fixed. They would remind me that they didn’t see me as simply somebody with a set of diagnoses, but someone with a past, future and a life outside of the hospital walls. We would spend time talking about my friends, my hobbies and my favourite TV shows in addition to more serious topics of conversation such as my mood. I also really liked it when they wouldn’t assume that they knew best and would allow me to guide the conversation. We would have a two-way discussion where we would both share and explore our ideas about why I was feeling the way I was and potential ways to help me to progress in my recovery.

The members of staff who looked after me went above and beyond to help me even though they were extremely busy and had other patients to look after. Despite having their own hardships, they would come into work and selflessly put my needs and the needs of the other patients before theirs on a daily basis. They were a beacon of light in the darkness that I was engulfed in, and for that, I will always be deeply thankful. You guys are absolute heroes.



Have a look at the Understanding theme for more inspiration



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Limited Edition T-Shirts and Hoodies


We’re COLOURFUL, are you?


Wear a splash of colour and help support our best practice in Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) website. We think young inpatients and the awesome staff who care for them will love our limited edition CAMHeleon T-Shirts and Hoodies. They’re available to order now in a variety of colours and sizes.


Our campaign runs for 30 days from 21st February 2017 – so order yours now to avoid missing out! All proceeds go to the development and sustainment of Bright projects. 



CAMHeleon is a project of the social justice charity Bright which provides practical ideas and inspiring examples from and for mental health ward staff. 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.







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A Letter to Patients and Staff in Hospital Over Christmas



Christmas is a holiday associated with family, friends, happiness and celebration. From the 1st of December, it seems as if we’re all expected to transform into happy-go-lucky Christmas tree decorators, mince pie eaters and carol singers… but for many people these lovely things are the last things on their minds. For many, these optimistic expectations can amplify their feelings of pressure, sadness, isolation and stress. Understandably, for those spending Christmas in hospital, it can be an exceptionally painful time.

I want to let anybody who knows that they will be in hospital on Christmas day, that you are not forgotten and that you are in thoughts of everyone here at CAMHeleon / Star Wards. Please do what you can to help yourselves get through this period and if you can, please reach out to others for support. Understandably, things are really tough right now so please do whatever you can to give yourself the ultimate gift of self-love and care that you deserve.

Not everyone works office hours and there any many heroic ward staff who will be giving up their Christmas dinner for a very busy shift. A quick mince pie and a well-deserved brew might be all they get. I want to sincerely thank the nurses, health care assistants and other ward staff who are working this Christmas. By leaving your families and friends so you can come into work to care for your patients who are sadly separated from their’s, you are providing some much-needed light to them during this potentially very difficult holiday period. Christmas is a time for giving and reaching out to those around us and you are all doing it beautifully.


With love and appreciation,

Nina, Service User Consultant


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Opportunity and Expression Are Vital for Young People



By Allie Carr, Modern Matron, St Andrew’s Adolescent Pathway Northampton

It’s exciting times here at St Andrew’s as we are nearing the completion of our new building, FitzRoy House! This is a unit which is specifically designed for young people. And the best bit is, a lot of it was designed by young people!

As we know within the world of CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services), opportunity and expression are vital for young people, and one of the things which have enabled this new build to be so fantastic is the relationship between staff and young people in creating the designs, the art work and allowing young people to be involved at all stages.

FitzRoy House holds 11 wards, a therapy and education suite, two gyms, an activity hall, a multi-faith room, therapy kitchens, visiting areas, meeting rooms, a café – you name it, we probably have it! We’ve involved our young people at every step of the process – helping to design the layout of the new building, naming the wards and making sure that the environment is as peaceful and welcoming as possible.

By asking young people how different colours made them feel, how they affect mood and can define different types of indoor space, an overall concept was developed to reflect nature throughout the building. Themes were developed by appointed artist, Eric Klein Velderman from Cantoo Design, within hands-on art sessions involving the young people.

As a result, the ground floor of FitzRoy House now reflects an ‘earth’ theme, with the first floor designed to represent the sky.

Young people also directed how the 11 wards are named, choosing emotive words from the British countryside. The wards are: Brook, Fern, Berry, Acorn, Bracken, Maple, Willow, Oak, Sycamore, Marsh and Meadow. Each will reflect its theme through artwork on display. A competition was held amongst the young people, to name the café, the winning entry was ‘The Branch Out Café’.

The director of P+HS Architects who designed the build said: “One of the things that makes this scheme so special is that the ideas and creativity have come from the young people at St Andrews. This is even more important because FitzRoy House will be their home as they progress along their path to recovery.”

As you can see in the photo’s, our young people had some very creative sessions with the resident artist, designing different artwork for the building, they had great fun and really showed their creative side! These designs will be reflected around the building in different guises including on the walls, in bathrooms, as decals on the windows and on canvass for everyone to enjoy in years to come. One young person said: ‘It’s been fun doing this, it’s really nice to think that everything we are doing now is going to influence how people feel in the future, that we have the ability to express ourselves and tell the people who are building FitzRoy how things will work, what we like and don’t like and what will help us and other young people with our recovery.’


Read more about opportunity and expression in CAMHS here



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Let’s keep Reaching Out to Young People in Emotional Pain




If you love a person,
you accept the total person.
With all the defects.
Because those defects are a part of the person.

Never try to change a person you love,
because the very effort to change says that you love half,
and the other half of the person is not accepted .

When you love,
you simply love.




Having suffered from depression and anxiety for years, I can say from a personal point of view that assuming those with mental illness are just ‘acting out’ and not really suffering is as ridiculous as saying to someone with a broken leg ‘just walk on it, I’m sure it won’t be that painful!’. We would never say that to somebody with a broken leg, so what is so superior about a leg that it’s allowed to be ill and the brain isn’t? There’s still a long way to go until society reaches a level of understanding and acceptance of mental health problems that’s on par with physical health.

Stigma surrounding mental health is still rife. Sadly, society is still struggling to come to terms with the fact that the brain isn’t exempt from illness. The consequences of this stigma, such as someone experiencing mental health difficulties not asking for help, can have catastrophic effects. Their quality of life, work and relationships can be severely affected. Tragically, silence can also lead to suicide. It’s vital that as a society we keep talking, and if we don’t understand mental illness, then it’s very important we learn to listen. The phrase ‘pull it together’ is still heard far too often, many of those with anxiety are not strangers to being called drama queens and the expression ‘I’m just a bit OCD’ has become synonymous with neatness.

That said, I would say that stigma is decreasing – at least in many areas of UK society. With increasing amounts of research surrounding mental health, and people gradually opening up about their experiences, society is in the process of accepting that we as humans have fluctuating mental and physical health. There are many charities and organisations doing their best to raise awareness and decrease the stigma of mental illness. There are also national mental health weeks, CAMHS service reforms and numerous influential individuals, including celebrities, campaigning for greater awareness and knowledge of mental health problems. Society is changing for the better and it’s important we all continue being open and speaking up, to make sure this change continues.

It’s vital that if someone is struggling they reach out to somebody they trust. This can be very scary, so it’s very important the person being confided in listens and really tries to put themselves in the other person’s shoes, without passing judgement. As Dilys Haner says, “If you can react with empathy and non-judgment, you’ll help counter the stigma around mental illness that might be making it difficult for them to seek help. Empathy means you listen – really listen – and be in that moment with them. Be genuinely curious about what the situation is like for them rather than making assumptions. With empathy, you’re more likely to work on what they would consider as potential next steps, rather than taking their control away and making it less likely that they will talk to you again in the future.”  When I’m struggling, I find it really important the person I’m confiding in takes the time to understand how I’m feeling, without assuming they know already. It also really helps that they accept the way I’m feeling, without making me feel I ‘should’ be feeling something else. Richard Weissbourd says, “Children find out who they are and what’s meaningful to them in part when adults are able, without an agenda, to listen in a relaxed way and to reflect back their understandings and share their knowledge of the world.” Having supportive people to help guide me through my emotions, whilst I’m trying to make sense of the situation I’m in, helps me feel both contained and empowered, instead of oppressed and infantilised.

To make sure we keep giving children and young people the best possible support, it’s imperative we keep letting them know we’re here to help them, and most importantly, that we’re here to help them find themselves. Young people and children, in particular adolescents, are going through a stage of their life which is full of change, growing up and external pressures. They need a lot of support and guidance, but they also need to feel they’re being treated as equals and autonomous beings. To be helpful, the person the child or young person is confiding in doesn’t have to be a professional. Compassion, care and their time are the most important things a person can give to a child or young person, to help them feel less alone in their struggles.

There’s still a long way to go until society reaches a place where there isn’t a disparity between physical and mental health, but there is a lot of positive change happening and that gives me hope that one day, everybody with mental illness will be treated with the same amount of compassion and respect as those with physical illnesses. Until then, it’s vital we make sure children and young people are getting the help they deserve, and that our actions of acceptance around mental health continue being the catalysts of change.



About the author

ninatestHi, I’m Nina. I’m 20 years old and will soon be starting university to study Psychology. I’m passionate about spreading awareness of mental health and the foster care system. My interest in inpatient mental health care stems from the period of hospitalisation I experienced for Anorexia Nervosa, half of which was spent as a detained patient. I now live with my foster mum and foster brother. My biological brother spends a lot of time round at ours’ as well.  I am now in recovery from Anxiety and Depression and have recovered from my eating disorder.


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By Nina Martynchyk

My friends are, and have always been, my ‘rock’. Over the past seven years, which has included a year-long hospitalisation for Anorexia, moving schools and five foster placements, my friends have always been a source of support and stability in my life.  Even if my placement was highly neglectful (one of my carers had a very hard time accepting she had to cook for me – I was 14 when I moved in with her), I was lucky enough to have a friend who started taking me home every Friday for dinner.

The Association for Young People’s Health states “we think that young people deserve more recognition for the skills and expertise required to provide the kind of support they are already giving.” I couldn’t agree with this statement more.

My friends were (and still are) the people I would go to if I had a problem, and who I could trust cared about me. When I was in hospital, they would come and visit me as much as they could. One nurse even said “I’ve never seen somebody being visited by as many friends.”

It’s my friends that have helped give me a sense of belonging and love when it was so lacking in my home life.

Despite the fact that seeing my friends in hospital was slightly awkward, we found a way to make our time together as fun as possible. I remember one friend bringing in his guitar and thinking it would be funny to entertain me by playing ‘Old McDonald Had A Farm’. It was bizarre, but it did make me laugh a lot. Another friend would bring me movies and we spent many afternoons in my hospital bed watching them together (despite the fact that we were breaking many ‘health and safety’ regulations). Hearing stories from friends about what was going on in their social lives played an important role in reminding me that there were nice, fun ‘teenage’ things going on outside hospital, that I could take part in when I got out. Hospital wasn’t an easy time, but having friends from my ‘old’ life come and visit definitely helped to give me a sense of normality.

Admittedly, despite being very close to my friends, I did find it tricky to tell them that I was going into hospital.  I didn’t know what to say or how to explain what was going on. This was partly down to the fact that I found everything that was going on really confusing. One of my best friends recalls how I didn’t tell her that I was being admitted to hospital until the day before she left to go on a two-week holiday to Malaysia. To be honest, I didn’t even mention anything to the majority of my other friends.

I also found it hard to be direct and open with them about how I was feeling when I was in hospital. Another of my best friends remembers how she found it really hard to support me, as I would end up cancelling most of our visits without explaining why. I wish I had been more open with her and explained that it was down to the depression I was suffering, which often made it very hard for me to hold conversations.

Looking back, I wish I had been more open with my friends. What I would say to someone going into inpatient treatment is try to be as open as you can with the people that you trust. There is absolutely no shame in having a mental health problem, and in needing to be admitted to hospital. Saying something simple and not too detailed, along the lines of “I’m really not in a very good place right now and need more intense help than I’m getting at home” can be one way to ease into a conversation about being admitted to hospital. Especially if a more detailed and in-depth conversation would feel uncomfortable.

I would probably have made a list of code words that my friends knew about, to represent different emotions. Explaining to a friend that I felt depressed using a code word would probably have felt less daunting than going into things in more depth. Also, it can be very hard for friends who aren’t experiencing, or haven’t experienced, mental health problems to know what to say or do to help. I wish I had created a ‘toolkit’ of helpful things my friends could have done or said when they visited me, as it would have probably helped them feel less confused about how to act when they saw me.

Even though the support from my school friends was invaluable and helped me feel less lonely, the friendships I made during treatment also played a huge role in making me feel less isolated. CAMHeleon is completely right when it says that “Ward companionships (when appropriate and supervised by staff) can be very powerful to young people.” The friends I made during my stay in hospital definitely made me feel like I wasn’t alone in what I was going through, and that there were people who really understood how I was feeling. Some of the closest friends I have now are the ones I met in hospital. One of my best friends, who I still see often, met me in the waiting room as I was about to be admitted up to the ward. We randomly started a conversation, exchanged numbers and four years later on, we’re still in regular contact. I was also very touched to be invited to the wedding of another friend I met during my first week in hospital. We developed a very strong bond while we were on the ward, and I remember her writing me a letter when she was about to go on a week-long home leave and giving me a massive hug before she left. I definitely had a lot of fun with her too, even if we weren’t always the best-behaved patients when we were together!

Even though the friends I met in hospital were going through really difficult times, I feel very blessed that they supported and stood by me at a time when I was barely able to support myself. I am also so grateful to my school friends for showing me how much they cared about me and for doing what they could to make me feel better, whether it was by playing nursery rhymes on a guitar or travelling across London to see me.



This blog relates to the Family and Friends theme – click here to take a look

Here are a few extracts…

The world of a young person experiencing mental health problems can be a starkly lonely, isolated one. When a young person is in hospital, there’s a need to keep in contact with existing friends, as well as making new ones on the ward. Friendships can be a wonderful source of emotional strength for young people, and may help develop their self-confidence. In fact, there’s lots of evidence that peer groups can have many positive influences on young people, including: having a focus, making good decisions and adopting prosocial-behaviour.

Friendship is an important part of everyone’s life, but to a young person having friends and being accepted can be a matter of all-consuming concern. Peer acceptance is linked to a better sense of belonging and fewer behavioural problems, while the fostering of friendships eases feelings of loneliness. Peer support can help to take away shame and embarrassment, it can let young people know they’re not alone and that they don’t have to suffer silently.

Peer relationships may be more important to young people than parents, and asking them about their friends may help you work out the setting of their presenting problems. A young person often looks for validation from their peer group, rather than from the adults in their lives, and in the early teenage years – there’s a strong sense of peer group ideology.

Young people use companionship to find their own voice, learn about sharing and feel accepted for who they are as a person, rather than who they are as a family member or client. Ward companionships (when appropriate and supervised by staff) can be very powerful to young people, and it’s likely they will look for acceptance within their ward peer group.

Read more



About the author

ninatestHi, I’m Nina. I’m 20 years old and will soon be starting university to study Psychology. I’m passionate about spreading awareness of mental health and the foster care system. My interest in inpatient mental health care stems from the period of hospitalisation I experienced for Anorexia Nervosa, half of which was spent as a detained patient. I now live with my foster mum and foster brother. My biological brother spends a lot of time round at ours’ as well.  I am now in recovery from Anxiety and Depression and have recovered from my eating disorder.


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First published on Place2Be’s partner intranet 

By Nic Higham, Inpatient Care Project Manager at Star Wards 

We know that mental health has been overlooked in the past. This is mostly because of stigma and people not appreciating just how many people are affected and how devastating that effect is. But, thankfully, we are talking about it now and that’s most certainly a very good start. Somewhat unbelievably, it’s taken society a long time to come to the view that mental health deserves the same priority as physical health. The converse is starting to seem ridiculous. We’re waking up to the fact that mental wellness is a massive concern for society at large. We shouldn’t however, beat ourselves up for failing to appreciate these truths before. That won’t get us anywhere, and would be bad for our mental health.

In this raising of awareness, the mental wellness of children and young people is coming increasingly into the spotlight. Perhaps the emotional trials our young people go through are due to the unique pressures they face today (including the perils of cyberbullying, social media and constant academic examination), or it could be that greater awareness is enabling more youngsters to identify problems and be more willing to open up to others. Either way, the fact that there’s a significant and genuine need out there is finally being emphasised. The impact these troubles have on young people shouldn’t be underestimated.

So, although we have started this conversation, we have to keep it going because it’s a conversation that should never stop. And as we talk it’s becoming increasingly clear that the mental health of our children is holistic; that it includes their emotional, psychological and social well-being. Now more than ever sufferers have a voice and, crucially, are being heard. At long last our young are more confident about the necessity of disclosure and help.

We’re also learning that one of the best ways for fostering good mental health is in schools where positive discussions about wellbeing can happen every day. Golden opportunities to discover coping skills, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, mindfulness and building resilience are in the hands of educators. Therefore, schools need autonomy and funding to create programmes that aim to reduce the extent and severity of distress. But we cannot expect teachers, who are under pressure in so many areas, to be unsupported in this. That is where excellent initiatives and charities such as the wonderful Place2Be have an essential role to play. They’re providing both universal and targeted services for young people in schools, alongside support for parents and consultation and advice for school staff.

As compassionate adults, we need to feel equipped and capable of responding to the urgency of every young person’s cry for care and assistance. It’s essential that young people and their careers are fortified with the appropriate support, knowledge and coping strategies needed. Mental health problems are ‘family affairs’ – they have an overwhelming effect on loved ones, and it’s crucial that families are involved in resolving them. Families need support. Although we cannot always change a young person’s immediate situation, we can offer them and their families the tools to cope.

Young people are gradually finding the courage to voice their experience and reach out to friends, family and teachers. As mental health problems often start in adolescence, early intervention is key if we are to effectively improve present and future quality of life for those affected. As a society – a familial macrocosm, if you like – we need to make sure we’re doing everything possible for the most vulnerable young people who deserve to receive the very best care as speedily and straightforward as possible. They need to know that their voices are being heard and their concerns are listened to. They need caring, trustworthy relationships with the adults who are responsible for them. They need to be taken seriously and to be valued. The magnitude of their challenges shouldn’t be overlooked because they’re real.

Fortunately, and perhaps because of this heightened awareness, there are now sources of good information for concerned families which provide education on emotional well-being and how to best advocate for their children. Those closest to young people are usually the first to recognise that they’re having substantial difficulty with their emotions or behaviour. Consequently, nothing but good can come from educating ourselves, whether we are parents, family members, young people, their friends, teachers or nurses. Young people are most likely to turn to their friends for help, which is why we need to teach all young people how to support each other. It’s heartening to see the emergence of ‘mental health first aider courses’ some of which welcome children as young as eight years old to enrol.

There’ll probably always be young people and families with needs that are so complex they require admission to a highly specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) inpatient units. As with other staff groups, most CAMHS wards’ staff are impressively creative and compassionate. However difficult going into hospital can be, there are opportunities as well. CAMHS wards throughout the country provide a rich assortment of therapeutic, educational, social and clinical interventions. Being an inpatient offers an opportunity for young people to attain new skills and achievements, to build up their muscles of resilience, to discover hope, to feel validated and safe, to be heard and involved, to do something fun, enjoyable and constructive, to express themselves, to make new friends, and to grow and move forward in their own developmental and recovery journey. is a new CAMHS ward best practice website which has been developed by Star Wards. 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. 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. The site showcases an assortment of ideas, articles, quotes, research and resources about therapeutic CAMHS care which are hoped to stimulate and support the ongoing conversation about young people’s mental health.

As a society, we should draw some confidence from the fact that we’ve made progress in raising awareness about mental health issues. Indeed, the modelling of self-esteem and self-confidence begins with us. However, we shouldn’t think that awareness alone is enough to make the positive changes to young people’s lives. Understandably, parents still find it difficult to broach or tackle the subject with their children who are probably up against the same barrier, maybe coupled with a lack of understanding about what they’re going through when early symptoms kick in.

We’re seeing a shift in the stigma, but it does prevail and we need to confront it. We can all play a part to change this, whether through offering empathic support and understanding, delivering direct interventions, or refusing to speak disparagingly about mental illness. We can be mindful of stigmatising language. We can seek to discover ways to offer support and reassurance, so those affected know they’re not alone. Only good can come from keeping the conversation going. We need to be as open as we can be because these issues affect us all. We’ll feel less alone and hopeless if we acknowledge that. Stigma always derives from ignorance and fear so let’s continue to educate ourselves and encourage even more understanding and mindfulness.

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CAMHs Staff Helped Me Find Hope When I Thought All Was Lost

By Nina Martynchyk


“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”

– Thich Nhat Han



When I think back to my time in hospital, the only thing I really remember are the relationships that I had with the staff that looked after me. There was a period of time when the staff were the only people I could rely on.

A couple of weeks after being admitted to the Royal Free for Anorexia, my placement with my old foster carer broke down.  My mum had died two years before, my attempt to start a relationship with my dad broke down catastrophically and with the exception of my brother, I had no family to visit and support me until my current foster mum came along six weeks later.

Sue Gerhardt is spot on when she said “The qualities of good parenting (and of close relationships in general) are essentially regulatory qualities: the capacity to listen, to notice, to shape behaviour and to be able to restore good feelings through some kind of physical, emotional or mental contact, through a touch, a smile, a way of putting feelings and thoughts into words.”  Despite being bruised by the collapse of many of my past relationships, the support, time and care the staff gave me meant I could feel that they genuinely wanted to help me which in turn eased the loneliness I was feeling. Even though they carried out my medical observations and blood tests, they also went the extra mile which showed me that I wasn’t as worthless as I thought I was and that I deserved care and attention.

When I had nobody to wash my clothes for me, I recall the lead nurse sitting on my bed and offering to take it home for me.  I remember the health care worker that shared my 16-year old hormone fuelled obsession with One Direction listening to my favourite songs with me. I was also obsessed with magazines which resulted in many afternoons of conversations about the current state of celebrity affairs.

I remember having to create an impromptu art portfolio to hand into my college which would determine if I would get onto the art course there or not. One of the nurses spent her afternoons teaching me drawing techniques and admittedly doing quite a bit of the drawing for me.  I was accepted!

When I was about to start sixth form, one of my nurses came in on her day off to take me to my open day. It was a great day- we had lunch at Nando’s, went to visit the college and then met up with my foster mum who took us out for a snack. Having two meals out of my unit was a very big achievement for me. That day, not only did I tackle my Anorexia but I also realised that I really did mean something to those looking after me. When the staff would do nice things with me, such as help me with art or go with me to buy One Direction posters, I would also feel like I wasn’t only a patient but a ‘real’ person with real interests too.

The professionals who worked with me also helped me build my relationship with my foster mum. By the time she came along, I had very little trust in people. I needed constant reassurance from the staff that she was as nice as she seemed, she wasn’t lying to me about taking me home with her and that she really meant the lovely things which she was saying. The hospital also made sure that my chosen health care assistant was there with me at my first meeting with her.  Starting any relationship with anybody isn’t very easy, let alone when you are in crisis in hospital and have been through four previous failed placements, bereavement and trauma. Without the amazing help from the staff, setting up a relationship with her would have been much more complicated than it already was. Now we get on really well, I still live with her and we have spent my previous four birthdays together. Not only did the staff help me within the hospital setting, but they also helped me on the journey of creating a life out in the ‘real’ world.

Thich Nhat Han says “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” For the majority of my stay in hospital, hope was very hard to find within myself. I am so grateful to the staff for giving me with hope when I needed it the most and eventually helping me find it within myself despite the fact that I thought it was permanently lost. The professionals who worked with me helped me see that I was worth more than what my anorexia, depression and my anxiety made me feel.

I have now recovered from an eating disorder that once nearly took my life.

Thank You.

Nina Martynchyk



This blog relates to the Caring Relationships theme – click here to take a look

Here are a few extracts…

The Caring Relationships theme focuses on ward staff members’ relationship with young inpatients. It touches on how staff are compassionate experts who build-up, empower and support young people’s relationships with everyone involved in their lives, including families, carers, friends, schools and even pets.

Young people love it when caring adults commit (with flexibility of course) to their request for individual quality time. The ‘therapeutic alliance’ is the ability to form and nurture therapeutic relationships in which staff create a ‘bond’ with young people and their family, so they can work together to reach shared decisions. In this sense, it’s primarily about supporting healthy attachment, so young people and those involved in their recovery can have trust, and are able to be honest about their needs. The healthiest relationships are those which are honest, flexible, committed, warm and safe. What matters most is that these purposeful conversations and interactions take priority, are young person-focused and caring. Every action communicates something of importance.

All of us are open to powerful emotions that we can’t always ignore or switch off. Instead of shaming ourselves when these emotions are triggered, we need to step back, work out what we’re thinking or feeling, and identify the underlying source of what we’re experiencing. You can teach a young person that their feelings are not enemies or threats to their existence; that each one of them deserves kind and uncensored attention, exploration and integration. Sometimes powerful energies just need to rage in them for a while. Sometimes the tender tears and emotions need to flow or stream out of them in order to accommodate more hope and love.

Applauding the ‘small’ achievements is one of the simplest, but most effective ways to boost young people’s happiness. Positive feedback is the most powerful tool you have to improve a young person’s behaviour and self-esteem. Warm and sensitive validation of their thoughts and emotions helps them work out what triggers their feelings and can neutralise difficult parts of their experience.

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About the author

Hi, I’m Nina. I’m 20 years old and will soon be starting university to study Psychology. I’m passionate about spreading awareness of mental health and the foster care system. My interest in inpatient mental health care stems from the period of hospitalisation I experienced for Anorexia Nervosa, half of which was spent as a detained patient. I now live with my foster mum and foster brother. My biological brother spends a lot of time round at ours’ as well.  I am now in recovery from Anxiety and Depression and have recovered from my eating disorder.

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