So, what do you do?

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Nik Mansfield has worked for the NHS for nearly 25 years and is CAMHS Matron for Chalkhill: Inpatients & CAMHS Crisis Team. Disclaimer: This is an independent blog and ACAMH may not necessarily hold the same views.

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Young adolescents may be more interested in finding out what phone a new acquaintance has – sometimes before even finding out the other’s name! (Something that concerns me…..but that’s a topic for another day).

Adults tend to follow up finding out your name, with:

“What do you do?”

I’m a mental health nurse for children (a CAMHS Nurse).

The other then tends to answer with one of the following, and in the politeness of conversation I give the required brief answers. Here I elaborate with what I’d like to say if I had the time and they were really interested!

“That must be interesting”

Yes, it is very interesting work. There are a variety of settings you can work in as a CAMHS Nurse – a range of community teams, hospitals, and secure establishments. I work with young people and their families or carers to help identity mental health difficulties and what may be contributing to these. Then I help to find a solution – this could be helping parents to parent a child with these difficulties, individual talking or creative therapy, family therapy and/or medication, and generally working collaboratively with the young person and their family to identify hope and resilience. I have specialised in the mental health and well-being of adolescents, but there are teams who work with very young children, or parents with mental health problems and their babies.

“That sounds rewarding”

Yes it really can be. There is the occasional thank you card and chocolate (always appreciated!), but more importantly there is the reward of sharing in a young person’s recovery, seeing them be able to enjoy life again, or attend school without fear, or concentrate in school lessons, or just be happy with who they are.

“That must be “difficult / stressful”

It certainly can be at times. I have seen young people very distressed, and heard some upsetting stories of their lives so far. I have felt great stress at times due to the amount of time spent in front of a computer – I didn’t become a nurse to sit at a desk for long periods each day, and due to the under-resourcing of child mental health services – it is so hard to see the need out there and be part of a service that cannot meet this need.

“Wow, I couldn’t do that”

It may not be everyone’s favourite job – but I reckon if you are a caring person who is interested in people, you probably would be able to give it a go. I’ve not got special superhuman power or abilities, just the ability to keep caring, learning and improving my practice.  I do think it would help though if professionals in jobs such as this had a break from it every two years and spent a couple of months making cakes, or flower arranging or painting – something that did not involve having to talk with people! They would then be ready to give it their all again.

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