What began as an informal newsletter — ‘The News’ — has evolved into a recognisable and distinct brand in the field of clinical child and adolescent mental health, lauded for helping practitioners convert evidence into practice, and for influencing policy globally.
In 1996 the journal took shape as the Child Psychology and Psychiatry Review (CPPR), with consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist Professor Stephen Scott (ACAMH’s current chair), and consultant child clinical psychologist, Linda Dowdney serving as its first editors. It was not until 2002 that the journal changed its name to CAMH, and, during the same year, joined academic publishers Wiley.
A stablemate to The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (JCPP), widely recognised as the leading international journal covering child and adolescent psychology and psychiatry, CAMH has succeeded in offering something different — peer reviewed papers and research that is more directly and immediately relevant to clinical practice.
Samuele Cortese, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Southampton, who joined the editorial board as an Associate Editor in February 2019, describes CAMH as a ‘rigorous but clinical friendly journal’. It’s popularity with readers is undisputed with downloads for the online version growing 43% year on year.
This is all the more impressive, when one learns that in the early days the editors had to ‘encourage’ submissions. Tamsin Ford, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, lead editor of CAMH between 2011 and 2014, recalls having to ‘work intensively with authors to work up their manuscripts’.
But as CAMH’s reputation grew, so did the quality and quantity of submissions.
“Soon we had quite a backlog of accepted papers as we moved rapidly from famine to feast. During my time I saw the standard and volume of papers rise phenomenally.”
In 2011 the journal was accepted for indexing — a ‘really big milestone’ notes Tamsin, and one that led to an even higher quality of submissions.
CAMH has also expanded its editorial board to include editors from several countries and from different mental health disciplines.
The journal’s development continues apace. In November 2018, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Dr Dennis Ougrin became editor-in-chief, and introduced a series of new sections: debates, technology matters and clinical research updates.
The clinical debate section which invites experts and service users to address controversial topics, has galvanised readers, prompting an unprecedented volume of comments.
“Sometimes written in a rather heated way,” notes Dennis. “But ultimately providing the knowledge needed to deliver better clinical care. Of our six papers with the highest Altmetric Attention Score (a measure of engagement with the public and clinicians), three come from the section on clinical debates.”
Recent debates have focused on demand avoidance phenomena, gender-diverse children and young people, and bipolar disorder.
The latter stands out for associate editor, Samuele Cortese.
“I particularly loved the Debate Editorial on the so-called bipolar disorder in children and adolescents, published in January 2019. The topic has been and is still in part controversial in the field, with possible differences in practice across countries. I think that this Debate Editorial, written by two world-renowned experts from the USA and UK provided a thoughtful, comprehensive, and balanced view of the topic.”
CAMH’s influence extends beyond its immediate readership, with papers and editorials frequently proving prescient in predicting, and shaping contemporary practice.
Tamsin Ford’s paper, published in CAMH in 2006, which used the 1999 British Child and Adolescent Mental Health Survey to see who gets access to services, is regularly cited in policy documents, including the NHS Plan.
While a 2008 paper exploring the rationale for collaborative working between health and educational professionals proved especially prescient. A decade later, the government launched its Green Paper: Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision, focusing on early mental health intervention in schools.
Other examples of CAMH’s influence and reach, include the 2010 paper on young people’s experience of ADHD and stimulation medication, which informed NICE guidelines.
“The paper highlighted the value of listening to our patients’ view and their subjective experience in taking medications, which nowadays, in our busy and at times chaotic clinical practice, we tend to overlook,” says Samuele Cortese.
In 2013, in its ‘Innovations in Practice’ section, CAMH published a paper on mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression in adolescents. At the time there was little evidence for its use with children and young people. It proved to be one of CAMH’s most downloaded articles.
“Again, this was prescient work ahead of the growing interest and developments in this area,” says Tamsin Ford.
And a 2015 paper, offering a meta-analysis of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy for self-harm and depression in young people, has shaped international policy on effective interventions for young people with self-harm and emotional disorders. Editor-in-chief, Dr Dennis Ougrin believes it will also influence the new revision of the NICE guidelines on self-harm in young people, due in 2022.
Building on its engagement with readers, CAMH currently offers clinicians practical workshops on how to publish in CAMH, and continues to introduce new sections to widen debate. ‘Clinical Conundrums’ for example will call for educational articles that challenge mental health professionals in their clinical work.
“The clinical scenarios should be unusual, go beyond the established evidence base, be easily missed or have serious consequences. The goal is to provide CAMH readers with new knowledge on assessment and management of challenging clinical scenarios,” explains Dennis.
CAMH also encourages contributions from young people — a fact of which, editor-in-chief, Dennis Ougrin, is particularly proud. “Young people contribute to our editorials, debates and conferences. Most importantly they do not allow us to forget that the purpose of the clinical knowledge contained within the journal has one ultimate purpose only – improving the lives of our young people and their families.”
With the imminent decision on including CAMH in PubMed Central — the free and accessible archive of biomedical journals at the US National Institute of Health’s library — the future of CAMH looks bright.
When Dr Dennis Ougrin first took up the post as Editor-in-Chief of CAMH, he described it as an opportunity for CAMH to become the ‘preeminent source of clinical knowledge, a generator of policy ideas and a pioneer of healthcare delivery models for all those concerned with the mental health of children and young people.’
In its quarter century, CAMH is well on its way to fulfilling that goal.