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What is mental health?

We all have mental health. It affects how we think, feel and behave, and determines how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Our mental health can change over time. Some people call mental health ’emotional health’ or ‘ wellbeing’. In the same way that sometimes we get physically sick with a cold or flu, sometimes we get mentally ill too.

What are mental health problems?

Changes in mental health are very common, for example with the stresses and strains of life. But if these changes don’t go away, and start to affect our everyday life, this can lead to problems with our mental health and can lead to mental illness. Over the course of your life, if you have mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behaviour could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including our genes and life experiences.

What is mental illness?

The term mental illness is used to describe diagnosable mental health problems. This is when you experience problems with your mental health that interfere with your life and meet criteria set out by health professionals.

How common are mental health problems?

Anyone can experience problems with their mental health from mild stress to diagnosable mental health problems, and it is thought that at any one time at least 1 person in 6 is experiencing a mental health condition. Half of all mental health problems are thought to start to before the age of 14.

Mental health problems are common but help is available. People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely.

Emotional Health Support

There are a range of services that can provide support for young people in addition to core Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Many of them schools, health professionals, parents/carers and young people themselves can refer to. A comprehensive list of local and national services can be found below:

These are some of the free services available locally:

Kooth – A confidential and anonymous online service for young people, specifically developed to make it easy and safe for young people to access mental health support as and when they need it. Once signed up, Kooth users have access to BACP trained counsellors available until 10pm, 365 days a year, peer-to-peer support through moderated forums, and a range of self-help materials, co-written by other young people. Any young person aged 11 – 18 (up to 19th birthday) with a Cambridgeshire or Peterborough postcode can access the service for free. You can watch the new Kooth video here.

CHUMS Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Service – Offers support to children and young people with mild to moderate mental health difficulties, such as anxiety and low mood, as well as those with significant emotional wellbeing difficulties arising from life events such as bereavement and bullying. Support will vary depending on the child’s or young person’s needs but may include 1-to-1 or group interventions, advice and guided self-help or parent/carer groups.

Referral criteria

  • Peterborough – Up to the age of 18
  • Cambridgeshire – Up to the age of 25

You can make a referral via the website and one of their triage team will contact you to discuss in more detail. You might also find some of the CHUMS downloadable information helpful – For further information contact 0330 0581 657 (Peterborough) or 0330 0581 659 (Cambridgeshire)

Centre 33 offers a range of support for young people (up to the age of 25) in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Centre 33 can help with all sorts of issues from housing, sexual health and money worries to family problems and bullying, no matter how big or small the problem is.

‘Someone to Talk To’ drop-in sessions and a helpline operate across the county 5 days a week. They also provide a schools counselling service and a young carers’ project. Centre 33 have an open access policy and young people can refer themselves to the service by calling or popping into the drop in sessions. For more information on the Centre 33 service visit their website or call (0333 4141809) or email (

Shelf help – A range of books that have been recommended by young people and health professionals about mental health will be available in public libraries. The books are aimed at 13 to 18 year olds with advice and information about issues like anxiety, stress and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and difficult experiences like bullying and exams.  A similar service, called ‘books on prescription’ is already available for adults. For more information on what local libraries can provide visit – Cambridge and Peterborough

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