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Mental Health Nurse - A Guide

Written on 12/8/11

What is it?

One of the most complex and demanding areas of nursing. As many as one in three people are thought to suffer some form of mental health problem. For many, mental illness is brought on by a crisis in life, which they can’t cope with, such as depression after the death of a partner. A mental health nurse may be part of a team working with people who may have been excluded from services through drug or alcohol abuse.

The range of conditions is vast: neuroses, psychoses, psychological and personality disorders all come under the broad heading of mental health.

What does it involve?

The key role and challenge is to form therapeutic relationships with mentally ill people and their families. Most mentally ill people are not cared for in hospital but in the community.

You might be based in a community health care centre, day hospital and outpatients department or specialist unit. You will need to have a good understanding of the theories of mental health and illness.

As a nurse working in mental health you would work as part of a team which includes general practitioners, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, arts therapists and healthcare assistants.

What are the special demands?

Your main tool as a mental health nurse will be the strength of your own personality and communication skills. You will need to empathise with the people you are dealing with and show warmth and care about them. Regrettably there is still some stigma attached to mental illness. Combating this and helping the individuals and their families deal with it is a key part of the job.

The danger of violence is often associated with this branch of nursing and one of the special skills required is to spot a build up of tension and defuse it.

Dealing with the human mind and behaviour is not an exact science. The job of helping people back to mental health is every bit as valuable and satisfying as caring for those with a physical illness.

It is possible to combine training as a mental health nurse with social work.

This article was originally published by NHS Careers