Covid 19Information Hub

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust

Meet Carl, one of our Mental Health Practitioners

Carl Dutton, Mental Health Practitioner at Alder Hey

My name is Carl Dutton and I work for Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust for FRESH CAMHS. I have worked in Liverpool now for 17 years, and previously co-ordinated a specific service across schools in Liverpool for Asylum and Refugee Seeking Children and Families called the ‘Haven Project’.

I am a mental health nurse and psychodrama psychotherapist and have a particular interest in using methods of working with children, families, and communities which are active such as Art, Drama, Music, Storytelling, Horticulture and Forest School. I believe in the abilities of families and communities to find solutions and that my role has often been to work alongside to develop new ways of looking at and solving issues about mental health.

At present I am working in the new 24 hour crisis service at Alder Hey which is brand new and is there to help support, guide, and assess children whose mental wellbeing is causing an impact on their lives, on others and on daily functioning.

Emotional Well Being during Covid 19

During these very strange and unsettling times I have been part of the FRESH CAMHS 24 hour crisis care team based at Alder Hey.

This has meant that I have been taking calls from children and young people and parents/carers who are wanting support, guidance/advice and access to other resources which might help during this time.

What Type of Calls do we get?

I would say most calls are about anxiety/worry, sleep and feeling ‘low and down about things’ which is heightened because of the way we have had to change the way we live at the moment. What was usual and normal, at times, feels such a long time ago and this can be even more so for young children in particular, but for everyone at some time.

It is a scary time and this can make it a more worrying time for children and young people. This can show up in a number of ways-

  • Increased questions about the virus
  • Worrying about people close dying
  • Having bad dreams/nightmares and maybe more often
  • Feeling insecure and worrying about the future
  • Moods may go up and down
  • Worrying about getting the virus or being ill
  • Appetite might decrease but also increase
  • Heightened sense of isolation – not feeling connected with friends
  • Sleep patterns might change

What is important to remember first of all is that all of those thoughts, feelings and behaviours are normal given the unusual situation we are in. It is ‘OK’ to ‘feel not OK’ about this and that includes parents/carers who might feel exactly the same.

It is OK not to have all the answers. What is important is to recognise the feeling and thoughts your child/young person has and validate it- this just means saying that you can see/hear they are upset/worried and that you are wanting to listen/understand how they are feeling and is there something you could do together to help.

Often these feelings/thoughts and behaviours are short lasting and may only last a day or so. However, if as a parent or young person you feel it is lasting too long and is impacting on your daily life/functioning then talking it through with a specially trained person at FRESH CAMHS CRISIS  Service may be the next step. You  may be  signposted to other support agencies within the CAMHS Partnership or wider groups such as Asylum/Refugee organisations, equally  you might want to make a self-referral to FRESH CAMHS for a specific issue/mental health concern.

What Things can you do at this time during Lockdown to support your Mental Health?

I think first of all to try and maintain a daily routine because this gives us a sense of the normality of life before Lockdown. That means trying to get up and go to bed at the times you would have done before. It helps us maintain the rhythm of life that we had pre-lockdown and also gives us some structure.

Find times to do exercise either in your home, yard, or garden space. We know that exercise has many positive benefits for our physical and emotional wellbeing as well as can be helpful to aid sleep. Be mindful of the rules around social distancing when taking exercise outdoors.

Have a time and space to talk together as a family about how everyone is doing/managing at the moment and to recognise everyone will have different thoughts/feelings. Keep communication open with each other and be aware if someone in your family becomes more withdrawn than normal, is staying awake all night when maybe before they slept fine, or has sudden and rapid moods for no apparent reason, then maybe this family member needs more support.

Use some form of relaxation techniques. There are many available on-line such as ‘headspace’ or ‘mood juice’ which provide guided relaxation methods to music (be mindful of any subscriptions). You can also spend 5-10 minutes focusing on breathing, slowly and deeply, in and out, and maybe imagining a place you felt most relaxed for example in a woodland area, beach, etc.

Do something creative such as writing stories, painting, doing a dance class on line, crafting, and maybe even a new activity you have not tried before!

Try growing some vegetables or flowers in a pot or growbag. It can help to reduce worry, produce your own food, and create beauty!

Continue learning via on-line learning resources or contact your local school so that your child/young person maintains their education. But equally focus on the learning opportunities within the home, activities like cooking and craft. We are not all teachers so let’s not worry if elements of the curriculum are unfamiliar!

Stay connected with friends and family. Peer relationships are important for children and young people and although they cannot meet at school, parks, or in town they can still connect via social media or by telephone.

Recognise you are not alone with this and that everyone in your street, Liverpool, UK, and the World will have similar problems/issues and that maintaining a sense of hope that we will come through this is vitally important for you as an individual but also as a family.

Ask for help either within your family, your community, or the wider system such as the NHS, Education or Social Services.

There is help and support available via the FRESH CAMHS 24 Hour Crisis Number 08081 963 550 or via the Liverpool CAMHS Partnership Website.


Carl Dutton


Mental Health Practitioner.