Find out about primary mental health workers

Primary mental health workers (PMHWs)

PMHWs are local community workers who meet with you initially to find out what the difficulties are and what might be the most useful. They can be asked to become involved by any professional person you see, such as you GP, health visitor, social worker or teacher. These people would only contact the PMHW after first discussing this with you and gaining your permission. You can't get in touch with a PMHW directly, but you can do this by talking to a professional person (see the referral process for more information).

Does a child or young person need to have a mental illness for the PMHW to be contacted?

PMHWs are involved with children with a wide range of difficulties, such as worries and stresses about going to school, making friends, or where there has been a change in the family with which people are struggling.
Mental health is something we all have and is something we all need to help each other look after. Sometimes if we're struggling, it can help if other people help us to see our strengths, give us ideas or advice about who to talk to.

What happens when the PMHW is contacted?

There's a range of things that might happen depending on the particular difficulty. These include:

  • Giving the professional person you see some extra ideas about ways to help or about other people who may be able to offer support. In this situation you wouldn’t meet us yourself.
  • We may suggest meeting with you, perhaps with the professional person you already see. This is often in your home at a mutually convenient time or is sometimes at school.
  • At this meeting you would be able to discuss the difficulties in more detail and work out what’s going to be helpful. We may agree to meet again. This is generally for up to six sessions but very often less.
  • Sometimes we might suggest a referral to Lime Trees. This may be because your child or family’s difficulties need a more specialist approach, for example when a child has an eating disorder or where family therapy could be helpful. We would discuss this with you in more detail.

When we meet with the PMHW what sort of questions will they ask?

  • We'll ask you more about what the concerns, worries or difficulties are, but also about what you think may be going well.
  • We may ask you more about the whole family and about how things have been in the past. This is a way of trying to help make sense of what's happening and also a way of finding out what might help.
  • We're aware that parents/carers, children and young people have lots of different feelings about asking for help. This can sometimes be a hard thing to do, it can be a relief but people can be concerned that they will be blamed or feel they are failing in some way.
  • We hope that by having a discussion, ways can be found for everyone involved to work out what to do and to build on what may be going well.

You can download a leaflet with more information about Children and Young People's Primary Mental Health Workers for Families and Carers.


York Family Information Service

01904 554444