Mental health is no longer hidden and no longer that people should be embarrassed about. Attitudes have changed enormously in the few years towards people with mental health issues, as well as understanding of the best kinds of care and treatment needed.
There is still a long way to go in so many ways before we can truly understand the depth of mental health issues. In the meantime, more people are willing to learn and thus, are looking at how to become a mental health worker.
There are many avenues that make up this diverse career path but those that have chosen to become mental health workers, find it a diverse and fulfilling career.
What is involved in being a mental health support worker?
Up until recent times, people with mental health issues were institutionalised and looked after in hospitals and residential clinics etc. Today people with issues and illnesses will live in the community, either assisted in independent living or at home, with family.
Adjusting to life when there is a mental health issue prevalent can be difficult. The world around can seem a confusing, unfriendly place. Having someone work with them, to support and enable them is important – and this is where the role of mental health support worker comes in.
Working in partnership
As you learn how to become a mental health worker, you will soon see that you are required to do a number of things:
- Work in partnership – you need to able to advocate on behalf of your client and work with a number of professionals including doctors, education authorities, housing departments, the police and so on.
- Provide support and guidance – people with mental health issues can find the simplest of tasks complex and confusing. For example, taking a trips to the shops can be fraught with all kinds of unknowns and hazards. As their support worker, you can help them overcome these fears.
- Not personal care – support workers are not usually expected to provide personal care but check what your client’s needs are and whether you feel able to provide this.
Experience and qualifications
Qualifications for mental health worker roles vary from one setting and employer to another. It pays to check the job description for any specific qualifications needed.
You will need to show that you have a high level of numeracy and literacy. As you support your client, you will be expected to keep detailed records of activities or any appointments you attended. You may also be expected to write a report on a regular basis, providing an objective assessment of how well your client is doing, along with any additional help they may need.
The Level 3 Preparing for Work in the Care Sector or similar course is an excellent way of acquiring knowledge and skills needed to underpin the basics of working in this kind of role.
Many people also look to complete similar courses in Health and Social Care, another excellent way of showing potential employers that you have a basic understanding and idea of what the role entails, and what the challenges could be.
Skills and attitudes
There is no doubt, however, that in looking at how to be a mental health worker that offers the support and guidance needed comes down to ‘soft skills’. These are the skills that are inherent in people, they personality and attitudes towards life, people and in this case, mental health illnesses.
You need to be able to:
- Help your client without overshadowing your client – there is a tendency when someone is not fully aware of how to do something to take over and ‘do it for them’. This effectively de-skills them, making them reliant on you. As a care and support worker, you are expected to support and guide them.
- Empathy – sympathy is to feel sorry for someone but in this role, you need to have an understanding of what they are facing but help them to overcome fears, uncertainties and concerns to be able to live life
- Life experience – from helping them manage time, to perhaps passing on basic cooking and baking skills, having your own interests and hobbies, as well as experience of life, can be the factor that makes or breaks your career as a mental health worker. In fact, many people who are successful mental health workers will tell you it is not a career as such, but a vocation.
There are various mental health courses that will equip you with the basic skills needed but also specialist ones too. With 1 in 4 people suffering from mental health illnesses, the role of support worker is on that is increasingly needed.