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A Day in the Life of a Mental Health Support Worker

By: Ronda Payne

Published On: October 13, 2021

A Day in the Life of a Mental Health Support Worker

COVID has been good for a few things, despite how obviously bad it has been for most things. On the bad side is the fact that it has caused an exponential increase in mental health challenges, but that has also led to a positive outcome: people are much more aware, understanding and interested in mental health issues.

Similarly, COVID has had the unfortunate consequence of increasing addictive substance usage (which may or may not be linked to mental health challenges) and the need for help for those facing these types of addictions – both directly and indirectly. This brings awareness to addiction and the importance of supporting those suffering from it.

In turn, these increased needs have led to greater interest in the occupational field of mental health support and addictions and mental health program training. But, what does a mental health support worker actually do? They aren’t a psychologist, they aren’t a nurse, but they do work together with these types of individuals to provide basic care, therapies and aid to people with mental illnesses including addictions. It’s a gratifying job that is 100% based on the desire to see others improve, thrive and live their life to the fullest.

The Basics of the Role of Mental Health Support Worker

Like a number of jobs in the health care field, it’s hard to define a job, or range of jobs in a field, with just one title. We call this type of work mental health support, but others may refer to jobs in the field as peer support (for those who have experienced similar challenges), recovery coach, rehabilitation worker or by one of many other job titles.

Additionally, the job description is equally varied. It depends upon the organization and the patients or clients being served and supported. Some organizations may be focused solely on teen addiction recovery while others may have a more general scope of assisting adults with bipolar disorders. Some are government supported and funded while others are independent organizations with a single donor/supporter.

Keeping in mind that job descriptions can vary dramatically, here are a few of the things a mental health support worker might be involved in doing on a day-to-day basis depending upon the organization they work for:

  • Being a listener. Individuals in this field are perhaps first and foremost involved in listening to people. This includes patients/clients, their loved ones as well as doctors, nurses and others on the team
  • Being a supporter. Clearly, given the title we like to use of mental health support worker, there is a lot of support involved in the role. This can include everything from being an advocate and participating in various forms of care like sitting in on therapy sessions or going along to a general doctor’s appointment to simply serving as a guide and pointing out where and how to access services and tools
  • Being an observer. Working in this field may involve watching a patient or client for various signs and symptoms when they are in a care facility. The care worker may jump in during a severe mental health breakdown to assist, while ultimately the job is always about helping the patient work towards reducing symptoms of mental health challenges and/or the occurrence of addiction. This may also include working alongside a nurse or psychiatrist in order to provide the necessary care for the patient or client
  • Being a care giver. Sometimes the role includes basic and essential care for those who are in need of reminders and introductions of self-care. This runs the gamut from showing individuals where they can store their belongings and how they navigate a mental care facility to demonstrating simple breathing techniques to help calm a racing mind

What a Mental Health Support Worker’s Day Might Look Like

With this much diversity, it’s pretty hard to say exactly what a day might look like for a mental health support worker. However, as an example, let’s consider how a day could look for someone who works with young moms who have mental health challenges. The organization this support worker works for offers group sessions several times a week along with one-on-one support as clients need it.

Each client has different and unique needs and currently, instead of in-person meetings, things are done via Zoom due to pandemic restrictions.

The day will start with checking email and other communications to see if anything came up overnight that will change the plan for the day. Sometimes immediate requests for support come in and a care worker will need to see if quick appointments can be slotted into the day or they may need to make arrangements with fellow team members to ensure connections and support are available to clients.

Before the first group session in the late morning, there will be time for looking at individual cases and making notes in files to help present the complete picture of what’s happening, be it improvement or decline. There is also a need to review the intake forms of any new clients to determine what type of program is best for them and when to schedule the initial appointment to get them started. Additionally, the team will have a quick meeting to discuss urgent cases, determine who can connect with those who need support immediately and divide any new team tasks up.

At the group session, there will be a need for note-taking and some participation. While the therapist leads the discussion, the mental health support worker assists in asking questions and presenting different points of view due to their knowledge of each client and their personalities.

In the afternoon, individual appointments happen where the mental health support worker will review with the client how the previous week went, discuss any assigned “homework” and assess new observations. Those clients new to the program may want to talk about lack of sleep and frustrations over their overwhelming feelings. Others who have been in the program longer may want to explore strategies to deal with negativity when others criticize their parenting skills.

After one-on-one appointments, there will be notes to complete from the sessions and getting caught up on communications.

While the day isn’t spent entirely in the company of clients, this kind of job does mean that the mental health support worker is constantly considering the betterment of clients. This comes in the form of working together with them, reviewing their information and working with co-workers to ensure individuals are given the maximum amount of support to make strong steps forward.

If the role of a mental health support worker interests you, check out our Mental Health Worker Certificate Program and get started on your career journey to support others and enrich lives.

Disclaimer

The information contained in this post is considered true and accurate as of the publication date. However, the accuracy of this information may be impacted by changes in circumstances that occur after the time of publication. Ashton College assumes no liability for any error or omissions in the information contained in this post or any other post in our blog

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