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How to become a Mental Health Support Worker

Posted on 09/03/2021
How to become a Mental Health Support Worker

Since 2016 there has been a 21% increase in the number of people in contact with mental health services. However, the increasing demand for these services outways the number of mental health professionals available to deliver them. As a result, waiting lists have seen some individuals waiting over six months for appointments. And others resorting to emergency or crisis services.

As it stands, around 12% of all medical vacancies are in mental health services. So, there are certainly ample job opportunities available in this area.

As a mental health support worker, you’ll make a real difference in the lives of clients and their families. In a collective team effort, you’ll help them live more independently or comfortably with the challenges they face.

Mental health support workers are an integral part of the mental health support system. The role is also becoming more desirable with wages increasing 9.6% year-on-year. Compared to the 8.5% annual change for all jobs.

If you’re considering this career path, you’ll need to have the right values and attitude for a career in mental health. As well as relevant knowledge and experience.

Find out more about what you can expect working as a mental health support worker. The diverse range of needs you can support, where you can work and how to get the skills needed to apply.

learndirect - How to become a Mental Health Support Worker

Is mental health support right for me?

Working as a mental health support worker allows you to provide direct assistance to the individuals you work with. You’ll build a strong rapport with individuals as you support them to manage their conditions. Though, it can also be equally challenging. Take the time to assess whether this role is right for you before going down this route.

What being a Mental Health Support Worker entails

Regardless of who you work with, your focus is providing support to that individual. You’ll devote your time to helping them cope with their challenges and achieve their personal goals. To do so effectively, you’ll generally work alongside a multidisciplinary team. This would likely include a social worker, psychiatrist or therapist and possibly the local community mental health team.

Your duties will vary depending on the setting and the nature of the challenges your clients face. You could be arranging peer support groups for individuals with specific issues, administering medication or providing general emotional support.

Ultimately, you’ll be catering to the needs of your clients. This could be assisting with daily chores to help individuals live independently. Or helping them to access resources to meet their identified goals.

Overall, you’ll work in partnership with clients and health professionals. Using values-based practice to deliver person-centred care that promotes and supports mental wellbeing to minimise the impact of the individual’s challenges or reduce the risk of mental health crisis.

The personality & character traits employers are looking for

Aside from having knowledge of healthcare practices and mental health, you need certain personal traits for this role. Employers place high value on finding people with the right approach and attitude to mental health issues and illnesses. So, it’s important you align with those values.

Generally, mental health support workers need to:

  • Provide comfort and reassurance to individuals in distress or unsure of their surroundings.
  • Have the sensitivity and enthusiasm to provide a trusting, stimulating and varied lifestyle for clients.
  • Pay attention to and be in tune with the changing needs and behaviours of patients.
  • Genuinely want to make a real difference to people’s lives.
  • Help their clients without overshadowing them.
  • Have a strong, flexible mental aptitude and adapt to unpredictable situations.
  • Cope with the physical demands of the role.
  • Be able to work with people with challenging behaviour.
  • Encourage and motivate people to make positive changes.
  • Be non-judgemental and accepting of other people’s lifestyles.
  • Remain calm in stressful situations.
  • Focus on dignity and safety at all times.

Additionally, you’ll need to be able to listen and communicate effectively with your team to provide the care that’s required.

learndirect - Mental Health Support

What kind of role can I be expected to have?

You’ll provide assistance and basic care to clients with a range of mental health issues or illnesses. Which, depending on their symptoms and severity, can place mental health support workers in a variety of settings such as supported accommodations, psychiatric unis or working in the individual’s home.   

The different areas of mental health

Mental health is a diverse area. Individuals could be dealing with mild or short-term issues or more severe and enduring disorders. As a mental health support worker, this means you can help people facing a variety of challenges such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression  
  • Psychosis
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • People requiring acute mental health care

Where can I work?

Generally, mental health support workers are positioned in residential facilities and psychiatric hospitals. But there are also increasing opportunities to work in the community too.

The push to de-stigmatise mental health has led to improved service provision allowing individuals to receive assistance that enables them to manage their challenges at home.

Adjusting to life with a mental health illness can be difficult. But with the right support, individuals can live comfortably, continue with employment and regular responsibilities. 

In this instance, you’ll be providing assistance to individuals living at home. Those with more complex needs could be based in residential or inpatient care settings, including residential care homes, therapeutic communities, supported housing and hospitals.

These environments provide individuals with faster access to treatment and round-the-clock support.

learndirect - Mental Health Support Worker

What Qualifications do I need?

There aren’t any set entry requirements to become a mental health support worker. But employers are more commonly necessitating qualifications in healthcare or mental health, and/or relevant experience.

The experience you have could be from working or volunteering with young people or adults with mental health illnesses. Or from your personal experience or caring for a family member.

Since you’ll be reading care plans and writing reports on patients regularly, you’ll need good literacy and numeracy skills. In this case, you may be asked for a certain number of GCSEs or equivalent.

Get qualified through online courses

There are many ways you can gain the knowledge and skills needed to be a mental health support worker. The scope of the people and needs you can assist would benefit from various educational backgrounds.

For instance, you could focus on the mental health needs of children and young people or people with dementia. You could take a wider approach to mental health by taking a course in understanding mental health. Or focus on the profession by understanding the principles of the mental health care worker or mental health and social care.

Courses such as these will increase your understanding of mental health and how it can be effectively supported. What’s more, they are all available to study online, around your existing commitments. So if you need to retrain or upskill while working, you can do so without disruption to your schedule.

learndirect is the leading UK distance learning provider, who have recently launched a course faculty dedicated to mental health education. Find out more about getting the knowledge you need online to become a mental health support worker.

Simply click below to view the many beneficial courses we have available.    

learndirect - How to become a Mental Health Support Worker