Around one adult in six suffers from some form of mental illness at some time in their lives. Mental health nurses are specially trained to help such people come to terms with their problems and cope with everyday life. Patients, usually known as clients, can be any age, and may have issues ranging from anxiety and stress-related illnesses to personality disorders, eating disorders and drug and alcohol dependency.
The work depends on the needs of individual clients but can include:
Mental health nurses in the National Health Service (NHS) work up to 37.5 hours a week. This may include on-call rotas to cover emergencies. Some jobs may involve shift work. Part-time and flexible hours are often available. Most mental health nurses work in the community in hostels, day centres, clients' homes and units like drug dependency units. Some work in hospitals.
Starting salaries for trainees may be around £19,166 a year.
There are around 97,000 mental health nurses in the UK.
Most work for the NHS but there are also opportunities in the private healthcare sector and in social services teams.
Mental health nurses must hold a degree or diploma recognised by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), qualifying them in the mental health branch of nursing. For more general information about becoming a nurse, see Nurse. They must register with the NMC before they are allowed to practise.
Mental health nurses may take further training to allow them to specialise in fields such as drug and alcohol misuse or working with offenders.
Besides having general nursing skills, a mental health nurse should:
Mental health nurses may apply for leadership roles with wider responsibilities, such as team leader, charge nurse or nurse consultant.
There may also be opportunities to move into nurse education, research, nurse management or general NHS management.
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NHS England: NHS Careers. PO Box 2311,
Bristol BS2 2ZX
Tel: 0845 606 0655
NHS Scotland: Careers and Opportunities in the NHS Scotland
Tel: 0845 601 4647
Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC),
23 Portland Place, London W1B 1PZ
Tel: 020 7637 7181
Royal College of Nursing (RCN),
20 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0RN
Tel: 020 7409 3333
Queens University of Belfast,
School of Nursing and Midwifery,
Medical Biology Centre
97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL
Tel: 028 9097 2233
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.