Mental health support worker: job description
A mental health support worker role involves helping patients and their families with day-to-day tasks, as well as monitoring and observing patients.
Mental health support workers, employed by the NHS or in the private sector, assist with the treatment of mental health patients, either at the patient’s home or a healthcare facility such as a psychiatric hospital. They monitor patients and support them with eating, taking medications and other daily activities.
The mental health support worker job role does not involve counselling or directly treating mental health conditions but consists of more general support supervised by mental health nurses or other healthcare professionals.
Mental health support workers are responsible for:
- providing day-to-day care and living assistance to patients
- developing treatment plans in collaboration with other healthcare professionals administering medication
- monitoring patients’ physical and mental health and keeping accurate records
- supervising patients to ensure their safety and performing risk assessments
- giving practical support to patients and their families, such as with household tasks, personal care, managing their money and paperwork
- educating patients’ families and those patients live with about mental health issues and how they can help
- providing emotional support and reassurance to patients and their families.
The role requires varying shift patterns including night shifts and weekend work.
Mental health support worker pay is sometimes expressed as an annual salary and sometimes as an hourly rate. Salary survey websites and job vacancies suggest that annual salaries typically range from around £18,000 to £30,000 per year. The hourly rate is usually around £10 to £14 but sometimes increases on weekends and public holidays to £17 to £25 per hour.
Mental health support workers may work in a range of settings, including:
- the NHS
- patients’ homes
- a community mental health team
- residential or respite facilities
- rehabilitation programmes.
As a mental health support worker in the UK, you can either be hired directly by the NHS, by a private sector healthcare provider or by a recruitment agency. To help you decide what kind of employer you would prefer, take a look at our article on the NHS vs the private sector . This advice is aimed at nurses but many of the same factors will apply.
Vacancies appear on the NHS jobs website, as well as the websites of private healthcare providers and the jobs boards of national and local newspapers. You can also check for healthcare vacancies on targetjobs , as these may occasionally appear.
To apply, you’ll need to either send a CV and covering letter (see our CV and covering letter templates to find out how to structure yours) or fill in an online application form. If you apply to the NHS it is via a form on the NHS jobs website. If successful in your initial application, you’ll be invited to an interview.
There are no specific qualifications needed to become a mental health support worker but employers usually prefer at least an NVQ level 2 in a relevant area such as health and social care. Personal qualities such as emotional intelligence and resilience are likely to be as important as formal qualifications, if not more so.
Paid or voluntary experience in healthcare is valuable. What exactly is required will vary depending on the employer and type of vacancy. For example, a role in a hospital is likely to ask for previous inpatient experience, while others may ask for candidates to have worked or volunteered for social services and charities that provide mental health services.
- Verbal and written communication.
- Empathy, interpersonal and listening skills.
- The ability to solve problems, de-escalate crisis situations and cope with stress.
- Observational skills to spot changes in patients’ behaviour.
- A caring nature and genuine desire to have a positive impact on peoples’ lives.
- Teamwork skills.
- The ability to work on a flexible schedule.
- Computer literacy.