what is a mental health nurse?

A mental health issue is usually triggered by sudden changes in circumstances like divorce, the death of a loved one or substance abuse. Some people also have long term chronic conditions that require lifelong management. As a mental health nurse, you build an effective relationship with patients who are reliant on mental health services and with their relatives. 

Your job involves helping patients take medication correctly and providing advice on social activities and therapies that can boost their recovery. You help them return to good mental health by ensuring they participate in therapy sessions and take medications on time.

As a mental health nurse, you are likely to work in a hospital that offers psychiatric services. In a hospital, you work in a psychiatric ward, outpatient unit or psychiatric intensive care unit, administering treatment and diagnosing patients. You can also work in community facilities like GP surgery, community healthcare centre, residential homes and prisons. Your job is to provide support and inform the therapist of each patient's progress. You also update families on medical progress and help them develop the right support to improve recovery.

Would working in health as a mental health nurse suit your interest in helping people with mental conditions? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a mental health nurse role.

mental health nurse jobs

mental health nurse salary

The median salary of a mental health nurse according to National Careers is £25,654 per year for entry-level positions. When you are experienced, your earnings start at £45,838 annually. You can work for the private sector or NHS. When starting, mental health nurses working for the NHS earn a Band 5 salary and move upwards to Band 8a. At Band 5, you work under a registered mental health nurse, and your earnings range from £25,655 per year to £31,534 annually. As you build your skills and education, you work up the bands. Experienced mental health nurses earn £32,306 to £45,839 per year at Band 7. When you have many years of experience, you can become a consultant and earn a Band 8a salary that ranges from £47,126 to £53,219 per year.

how to increase your salary as a mental health nurse

Your salary as a mental health nurse depends on whether you work in the public or private sector. When you work for private rehabilitation centres, you have a better chance of earning a higher salary. The location also influences your earnings. Urban settings like London have higher salaries and better allowances than rural locations. You can also improve your salary prospects by developing your skills and experience through additional qualifications and certifications.


Please use these images in the context of inclusion projects
Please use these images in the context of inclusion projects

types of mental health nurses

Types of mental health nurses depend on the area of specialisation:

  • paediatric mental health nurse: as a mental health nurse, you can help children with mental health conditions to overcome them by administering recommended treatment. You also talk to their families about ways to detect symptoms of mental health conditions. Some of the children you help are suicidal, depressed or have eating disorders.
  • dementia mental health nurses: as a mental health nurse in memory clinics or patient homes, you care for people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. You help the patient by suggesting coping strategies to enable them to remain independent for as long as possible.
  • drug rehabilitation mental health nurse: as a mental health nurse, you help people overcome dependency on various substances. You provide counselling sessions and access to other services to help them recover from their addiction.


working as a mental health nurse

As a mental health nurse, you work with the patient's family to help them support the patient's recovery. Let's explore the duties and responsibilities of a mental health nurse.


education and skills

You can become a mental health nurse with the following educational qualifications:

  • university: you need to complete a degree in mental health nursing. If you have a previous degree in health-related courses, you can join the course from the second year. The course should be Nursing and Midwifery Council-approved. Instead of becoming a civilian mental health nurse, you could train with the armed forces.
  • apprenticeship: when you work in a healthcare setting, you can pursue a degree apprenticeship in nursing. When you complete the four-year programme, you will be a trainee mental health nurse.
  • work experience: a mental health nurse needs extensive experience. It helps to get voluntary experience or internship opportunities with an NHS trust. Registered nurses can convert to mental health nurses with an 18-month conversion course.

skills and competencies

Some of the qualities a mental health nurse needs are:

  • good judgement: as a mental health nurse, you need to use your intuition to determine if a patient is honest. When you have sound judgement, you can spot an evasive patient and help them open up more during counselling sessions.
  • active listening skills: as a mental health nurse, you have to be a good listener to understand a patient's problems and provide solutions. Active listening helps you provide the best care by giving all your attention to the patient.
  • communication skills: as a mental health nurse, you need to build a rapport with patients. That means you should communicate clearly and make them comfortable to share their problems and concerns.
  • problem-solving skills: sometimes, patients have an emotional breakdown and become agitated. Your need problem-solving skills to de-escalate the situation. You should develop techniques to use in your sessions when a patient becomes emotional.



FAQs about working as a mental health nurse

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