Mental health workers provide counselling and other services to individuals, families and communities groups who are suffering from a mental health disease. Most mental health workers provide a counselling service as well as referring their clients on to other health professionals or therapists, as necessary. Common issues that you would face as a mental health worker are depression, stress or anxiety disorders or another traumatic experience that a client is trying to overcome. Through early intervention and education, a mental health worker tries to deal with mental diseases before they become overwhelming to a client, helping them establish short and long-term plans to achieve a better quality of life. To become a mental health worker, you will usually need a university-level qualification and some experience in social work.
As a mental health worker, your daily tasks can vary greatly, depending on your clients or the area you specialise in. Typically, you will offer a counselling service, either to individuals or a family, listening to highly confidential and personal information. You will need to ensure you remain empathetic whilst providing a non-emotional response or insight into the situation. You may also need to suggest a client sees other medical professionals or seeks alternative therapies if you believe they are not overcoming their issues. As a mental health worker, you may also be requested to contribute to studies or provide educational programs to the community on mental diseases.
Mental health workers need to show knowledge and great understanding on the different mental health diseases they may come across. Because you are dealing with people who may be in an emotionally fragile state, you need to show compassion, withhold personal judgement and remain logical and pragmatic. Lots of different Australians, from all walks of life, seek assistance from mental health workers at some point, so you will need to be able to easily relate to people from different backgrounds, cultures and ages. You should have good problem solving skills as well as the ability to remain patient and calm at all times.
Mental health workers are usually a specialisation that nurses or social workers branch out into. There are ways to further specialise in mental health work such as with a particular mental disease like depression or work with a particular group, such as people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. There are also ways to become an accredited mental health worker, improving on your seniority in your field.
The mental health social workers that earn an accreditation through the Australian Association of Social Workers, are recognised for their highly advanced knowledge and proficiency across mental health issues. These are usually sought after those who work in the private sector and wish to move over to a government mental health initiative.
Much like an office manager, those in health sector management have a strong background working in the health sector, combining this with administration and management skills. As a health sector manager, you will lead a team of other health professionals as well as monitor budgets, HR matters and implement protocols and procedures.
Education of the public on mental health is very important work, and for those who enjoy teaching others, this is a great opportunity to work towards. As a public health worker, a government or non-government agency may employ you, conducting presentations and other educational programs within a community as well as providing training for other mental health workers.
Most employers will require you to hold a university-level qualification in mental health or social work, or in some cases, a nursing qualification.
Get started on your journey towards being a mental health worker by gaining these tertiary qualifications in mental health or social work. You can use this qualification to gain an entry-level position and learn from experienced healthcare professionals.
If you want to expand your horizons, you may wish to enrol in an undergraduate course.
If you want to work towards a management position, bolster your resume by learning from a postgraduate degree in mental health.
There are several prestigious associations you can gain accreditation or recognition from, to show you are dedicated to the field, namely the Australian Association of Social Workers, and nurses with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, are a good place to start.
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As education and awareness of mental health grows in Australia, the demand is increasing and salaries can be attractive, depending on your level of experience or education.