Purpose and Mission
Mental health professionals provide individuals and families of all ages with support for mental health issues. They are trained in social work and counselling skills and help people who have addiction and substance abuse problems, or who have parenting, marital and family issues, aging, self-esteem and stress management issues. They provide referrals for further specialist treatment to those who need it and help people through individual, group or family counselling sessions.
Mental health workers focus on early intervention and relapse strategies as much as possible by directing their patients to participate in community, residential rehabilitation and home based outreach programs and counselling provided in clinics. Note that psychologists, mental health nurses, and social workers also provide mental health support.
Many mental health professionals are employed by hospitals and clinics, and in most cases report to a department head, chief of service or similar mid-level administrator.
While some senior mental health professionals have direct supervisory responsibilities, others are more task-focused. More experienced mental health workers may have responsibilities for training of new staff.
Mental health workers can work without formal qualifications in some cases, but most employers prefer candidates with specific mental health training or certification.
The Certificate IV in Mental Health and Mental Health Peer Work is available through various private and state training providers and colleges across Australia. Mental health workers can also qualify to work in this field by obtaining traineeships / apprenticeships in mental health work. This enables them to enter into a formal training program with an employer where time is spent working and learning practical skills on the job while structured training is provided by a registered training provider. It’s useful to have a senior first aid certificate when looking for employment in the mental health field.
Other mental health professionals, such as psychologists, mental health nurses, general practitioners and social workers who work in the mental health field have a Bachelor’s degree and/or graduate degrees relating to their specialty.
Responsibilities of Mental Health Professionals
Key responsibilities of a mental health professional include:
Mental health professionals are typically employed in hospitals, rehabilitation centres, clinics, correctional institutes, and in nursing homes.
Mental health specialists must have strong verbal and written communication skills to be able to relate to people from all ages and backgrounds and maintain records and treatment plans.They need to consistently display patience, discretion and a high level of professionalism when dealing with their clients.
Of note, these healthcare professionals may be required to work evenings, weekends or on call shifts. Mental health specialists must also have strong skills in emergency response, mediation and negotiation skills which are essential to helping patients who are mentally and emotionally distraught.
Keep in mind that mental health workers may experience stress due to the nature of their work, and must be vigilant about any issues or safety hazards that may put them, other staff and their patients at risk.