A mental health worker is a person involved in treatment or support for people with mental illness. A number of jobs are available in the mental health field, ranging from nursing in psychiatric institutions to providing support through government agencies to people with mental illnesses who are applying for government benefits. Qualifications required for this type of work vary, depending on the position, as in some cases people may need medical and psychological training, while in other instances, they can learn on the job.
A key part of the job involves interacting with people who have mental illnesses, often when they are in crisis or are experiencing problems with managing their conditions. On one end of the spectrum, a mental health worker can evaluate people with suspected mental illness to screen them, determine if they have a medical issue, and refer them to people who can help, including therapists and psychiatrists. Other workers are directly involved in working with and caring for people living with a diagnosis.
In medical facilities, mental health workers provide assistance with daily tasks, administer medications, and may lead group therapy sessions and supervise activities like art therapy. They can also provide legal advice and assistance to people who need help, such as mental health patients fighting their insurance company, trying to get government assistance, or working on getting out of abusive home environments. These workers may also be employed by residential facilities, including group homes for people with mental illness.
Mental health workers in the general community provide counseling services, access to information about help accessing medical care, and assistance to people interacting with mentally ill individuals, such as police officers and educators. When people encounter a situation where a person with mental illness is in danger or endangering other people, a mental health worker may be called for help. She can assess the person, establish communication, and work on reaching a safe resolution.
This type of work can require irregular hours, depending on the type of services someone provides. Being able to interact calmly and professionally with people who may be experiencing an altered level of consciousness, extreme emotional distress, or lack of control over body functions is a necessary skill. Compassion is a valued trait in the mental health profession, and people who have pursued some training, even if it is not specifically required for a position, may be considered more competitive employment applicants for mental health worker positions.