In this article let’s discuss how to become a mental health worker.
Thankfully, attitudes toward mental health have changed rapidly in a short space of time. No longer is having a mental illness or disability something to be embarrassed about.
In addition, approaches to mental health care and treatment have also progressed in recent years.
If you feel that you would work well with patients who have mental health problems, you might want to consider becoming a mental health worker. If you choose this profession, you can look forward to a diverse, challenging and rewarding career. Find out if you have what it takes by reading the following informative guide.
What is a mental health worker?
As a mental health worker, you would work in hospitals, clinics or other healthcare facilities. You would help doctors and nurses specialising in mental health with their daily duties. You would provide support and care for patients who have mental and physical needs. Your daily tasks would be assigned to you by a registered mental health nurse or doctor. Mental health workers are also known as mental health support workers and mental healthcare assistants.
What do mental health workers actually do?
In this role, you would assist with tasks like monitoring patients and assisting them physically. The job of a mental health worker can also include assessing, evaluating and planning nursing strategies for specific patients. You would perform other general tasks for nurses and doctors as well.
If you work as a mental health worker in a care facility, you’ll usually supervise patients in other ways too. For example, patients may need to have their mobility monitored in order to ensure they come to no harm. You could also be assisting with washing patients and helping them at meal times.
In addition, you’ll need to demonstrate you’re compassionate and respectful towards patients. You must promote positivity and know how to quickly respond to and resolve any issues. Due to the sensitive nature of the job role, you’ll be trained to deal with diversity and equality issues in accordance to legislation. The role of a mental health worker is challenging, but it’s a very rewarding job too.
Mental Health Worker Job Description
Working as a mental health worker involves caring for patients who have mental illnesses or disabilities. You will work under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional to perform a number of different tasks, from making sure patients are safe and comfortable to ensuring patient medication is up-to-date. Although duties can vary from one employer to another, typical daily tasks of a mental health worker include:
- Supervising individual patients or groups.
- Maintaining patient reports.
- Recording patients’ pulse rates, respiration rates, temperatures and weights.
- Observing and monitoring the conditions of patients.
- Assisting with clinical tasks.
- Sensitively communicating with patients and their relatives.
- Maintaining patients’ personal hygiene.
- Promoting mental health positively with patients.
- Maximising patients’ cognitive functions.
- Improving and maintaining patients’ capacity for self-care.
Key Skills for a Mental Health Worker
To work with patients who have mental illnesses or disabilities, you must be able to demonstrate key skills like patience and empathy. A great starting point is taking online mental health courses as this will give you a great insight into the field and the key skills required to work in mental health.
Feeling sorry for your patients is not desirable, but you must be able to put yourself in their shoes and understand the challenges they’re facing. You can then help them to overcome their fears and worries. Furthermore, you need to help patients without overshadowing them.
Taking over a task and doing it for patients doesn’t help them because it makes them reliant on you. It’s your job to support and guide the patients you work with. You also need to be able to adapt to a variety of situations and calmly deal with problems that arise. Other key skills required for this position include:
- Having a caring and kind nature.
- Having the ability to be hands-on with patients.
- Being able to follow procedures and instructions.
- Being able to work on your own initiative and also as part of a team.
- Being friendly and cheerful.
Useful Work Experience
To become a mental health worker, you usually need to have at least six months’ experience of working with people who have mental illnesses or disabilities, in either a paid or voluntary capacity.
You could obtain work experience at hospitals, care homes and other healthcare facilities. You could also get experience by working voluntarily for a charity organisation that works with people with mental health problems. Alternatively, you could volunteer at a homeless shelter or a rehabilitation centre.
Taking an online course in mental health is a great way to add value to your CV and show that you are independently learning in this field. The Mental Health Support Worker course is a great starting point for this.
Many people choose to do an apprenticeship instead of work experience, as this gives them the practical experience they need, along with the training required to secure a future career. However, if you’re thinking of doing an apprenticeship and you have zero experience of working with patients with mental health problems, it’s advisable to do a short voluntary placement first to find out whether you’re suited to the job.
Average Salaries for a Mental Health Worker
Annual salaries for mental health workers can vary depending on your experience and the type of facility you work in.
Typically, entry-level positions pay around £15,500 per annum.
With years of experience and expertise under your bet, you can climb up the pay scale. The highest salary you could earn as a mental health worker is around £24,650 per annum.
If you want to earn more than that, you can progress in your mental health career to another position.
Qualifications for a Mental Health Worker
The qualifications required for the position of a mental health worker vary from employer to employer.
The entry requirements may differ depending on the exact nature of the mental health worker position as well. However, you don’t usually need to have a registered nursing certificate or a psychology or medical degree. Employers generally expect you to have GCSEs, or an equivalent qualification, in maths and English.
Sometimes, employers will require you to hold a specialist mental health qualification, such as an NVQ or a BTEC. In addition, virtually all employers expect you to have at least six months’ experience of working with people with mental health problems, through either paid or voluntary work.
Although higher-level qualifications aren’t mandatory for this profession, it always helps to have additional qualifications. By completing a Level Three Preparing for Work in the Care Sector course, or an equivalent course, you will acquire the basic knowledge and skills required to work as a mental health worker.
Other programmes that help you to learn the base skills and knowledge include courses in social care and health. By having a level three qualification, you can demonstrate to employers that you understand what the role entails and you know what challenges to expect.
Once you are accepted in the position of mental health worker, you will undergo a training period. This allows you to learn basic nursing skills and work towards earning the Care Certificate; developed by Skills for Care, Skills for Mental Health and Health Education England. Once you receive the recognised Care Certificate, you become a fully-fledged mental health worker. You can then progress further in your career if you wish.
You can climb up the career ladder by becoming a band three or band four mental health worker. These jobs are the same as an entry-level mental health worker role but they come with additional responsibilities. The higher you climb up the bands, the higher your salary will be.
Many mental health workers progress to become mental health nurses. You have to earn a degree in a related field to become a mental health nurse, but you’ll already be in a good position to begin your degree if you have years of experience as a mental health worker.
If you have a friendly, compassionate and caring nature, and you want a challenging but rewarding job, a career as a mental health worker could be the right role for you. You would work directly with patients who have mental illnesses or disabilities, and you would perform a wide range of daily tasks under the guidance of a mental healthcare professional.
You will normally need at least two GCSEs in maths and English or an equivalent qualification. You can also complete higher education courses to obtain a qualification that gives you the skills and knowledge to begin a successful mental health worker career. Apprenticeships are available as well. Whatever route you take to become a mental health worker, you’ll usually need to first complete at least six months’ experience of working with patients who have mental health problems. You can get this experience through a paid or voluntary position.
Once you are accepted as a mental health worker, you will have to complete training to receive the Care Certificate. You’ll then be a fully-qualified mental health care worker. If you wish to progress further in your career, you can become a band three or four mental health worker. Alternatively, you may wish to progress even further in the mental health sector by studying to become a mental health nurse.