Developing resources to support care of children with Medically Unexplained Symptoms

Why do we need this project? 

Many young people attend The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) with severe and debilitating physical symptoms. Their tests for signs of a physical illness commonly return with normal results, with no medical cause found.  

These cases are regarded as Medically Unexplained Symptoms (MUS). 

Children and young people with MUS that may be due to Somatising (physical symptoms caused by the body’s response to underlying stress or anxiety) are managed by general and speciality medical teams. Medical staff exclude medical causes for the symptoms through examination and investigations.  

Mental health referrals are usually made after a diagnosis of MUS and/or Somatising is made. This process can be confusing and frustrating for young people, and their families. 

Currently, there is no consistent model of care at the RCH for these patients. This has been challenging to develop and implement due to confusion about terminology, perceptions that mental health involvement may not be beneficial, and a lingering anxiety that a medical condition could still be diagnosed. 


This project aims to: 

  • develop a common language for Somatising Disorders within the RCH 
  • develop resources for young people, families, and RCH staff to enhance awareness of MUS, Somatising, and Somatic symptom and related disorders 
  • develop consistent pathways of care for Somatising disorders, including psychological assessment guidelines 
  • develop training materials to equip the RCH workforce to talk to parents and carers about Somatising disorders and need for mental health care 

This project involves input from key stakeholders within the RCH and people with lived experience (i.e., young people, parents, and carers) to review language, resources, guidelines, and care pathways for Somatising disorders. 

Acknowledgement of Country

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At Mental Health Central we acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live, gather and work. We recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.

We acknowledge all people with a lived or living experience of mental ill-health and recovery. At the Campus, we particularly acknowledge children, young people, families, carers, and supporters. We recognise their vital contribution and value the courage of those who share this unique perspective for the purpose of learning and growing together to achieve better outcomes for the Campus, staff, sector, and all people of lived experience.

Proudly supported by the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation