What does a mental health worker do?

Mental health workers' primary responsibility is to support their clients to address mental health issues. Their day-to-day tasks include assessing client needs, delivering counselling (both individual and group-based), liaising with other community groups to gain access to services for their clients, and contributing to the development of new services. Mental health workers must keep good records of their client contact and will also often be responsible for community education.

Tasks:

  • Assess client needs and monitor their progress
  • Deliver counselling and group programs
  • Liaise with other community and social services
  • Contribute to the development of mental health programs

What skills do I need to be a mental health worker?

To be a successful mental health worker, it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of mental health issues, treatment options and best practice. Mental health workers must also have the ability to relate well to people from a variety of backgrounds, as well as possess patience and tact. They must have excellent problem solving skills, an understanding of the wider health and social services sector, and the ability to make intelligent decisions under pressure.

Skills/attributes
  • Thorough understanding of mental health issues and treatment options
  • Excellent people skills
  • Problem solving expertise
  • An understanding of the health and social services sectors

Specialisations

Mental health workers have already specialised in their field, be that nursing or social work. There are, however, still some further specialisation options available, which recognise the solid skill base that mental health workers develop across their career. Mental health workers can become accredited mental health social workers, they can move into health sector management roles, and they can specialise in public health and education, to name just a few.

Accredited mental health social workers

These workers are qualified social workers who are recognised by the Australian Association of Social Workers as having specialist knowledge and expertise in mental health. This accreditation, generally sought by social workers in private practice, enables the workers to provide specific services through government programs such as Medicare.

Health sector management

Mental health workers gain an extensive understanding of both the health and social services sectors, and this positions them well to take on healthcare management positions further into their careers. Health sector management roles combine an understanding of healthcare issues with administrative skills such as budget and contract management, policy development, and staff recruitment and training.

Public health worker

There are numerous public health campaigns associated with mental health and wellbeing, and mental healthcare workers who particularly enjoy community education and interaction are well suited to these positions. These roles include tasks such as public presentations, contributing to program and policy development, building business cases, and training other health and social services professionals.

Study pathways for mental health workers

Generally speaking, qualified mental health workers must hold at least a bachelor’s degree in social work or a recognised nursing qualification.

Getting Started

For people interested in working in the mental health field, a certificate or diploma level qualification can be a useful way to gain employment as a support worker.

Skill Building

Nurses or social workers wishing to build their skills in the mental health area have the option of a number of undergraduate study programs and individual course units.

Professional Development

Mental health workers can undertake postgraduate study in health promotion or health industry management should they be interested in career progression into these areas.

Industry Recognition

It is recommended that social workers be registered with the Australian Association of Social Workers.

Getting a job after graduation

Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your mental health worker career. Take a look at our sample resume and cover letter and put your best foot forward when you apply for health industry jobs.

Job Prospects and Salaries

Mental health workers are in demand in many areas throughout the country, and salaries are competitive.