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Working in mental health social care is a hugely diverse, flexible and ever-changing career choice! So much so that it can feel challenging to work out exactly where you slot in, or where your skills will bring the most significant benefit.

There is a vast range of roles and specialisms, ranging from outreach support to working in schools, residential facilities to eating disorder clinics or creative therapy, as a few examples.

You might also decide that you want to offer other support services, and you’ll find mental health care work roles throughout:

  • The charity sector.
  • Education
  • Criminal justice.
  • Health and nursing support.
  • Social care facilities.

A role in mental health care doesn’t have to be in a specific psychiatry unit or counselling service, either. For instance, you might work in care homes or provide home care services, working with people and their families coping with conditions such as dementia.

The best way to choose the right sector for you is to break down your aspirations, experience, qualifications and skills – and ultimately, select the job that feels right.

To help you narrow down your options, the OUTT.com team has put together this guide to steer you through the questions to identify your ideal role.

What Drives You to Work in the Mental Health Sector?

The first question to ask yourself is what your passion is. Many mental health social care professionals have been inspired by life experiences that mean they feel compelled to help others.

For example, that might be:

  • Experiences of caring for a family member or close friend struggling with a mental health condition.
  • Having dealt with a mental health condition yourself and supporting people using your real-life knowledge to help them find a way through.

There is no requirement to have personal experience in mental health care, but these are some illustrations of the driving force behind social care mental health professionals.

If there is a specific illness that you are educated about, it will likely be a strong influence in selecting the best role for you.

Are You Hands-On or Organisational?

Not all mental health support staff work as carers. You might be eager to work in the mental health industry and have practical or managerial skills that could be of tremendous benefit.

As we’ve mentioned, there are countless social care roles, including:

  • Catering
  • Housekeeping
  • Transport
  • Management
  • Payroll
  • Finance
  • Administration
  • Gardening

Where you have a specific skill or ability that you’d like to incorporate into your social care career, this is an excellent place to start identifying suitable job placements.

You can also work for multiple employers, with the OUTT.com recruitment app offering urgent shift vacancies and regular or longer-term positions.

There is always scope to try out a few social care support roles and employers or combine shifts in different places to keep you on your toes.

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Who Do You See Yourself Working With?

Many mental health care workers choose their sector as they wish to work with a particular age group or demographic.

As we’ve discovered, mental health support services cover just about every industry there is, so skilled care workers will have no trouble finding vacancies in their preferred area. You might want to work with children or be keen to educate others about mental health impacts and how to look out for signs that a person needs support.

Perhaps you envisage your role in a care home, looking after the elderly and ensuring they have the best possible quality of life and professional support dealing with mental health conditions.

Alternatively, you might be focused on outreach work or community support roles. They can involve working with adults, community centres, schools, churches and businesses to provide ongoing help and raise mental health awareness.

While you can always chop and change your work placements, if you have a specific group that you feel you’d like to work with most, that will help narrow down your career choices.

Are You Happy to Travel, or Do You Want to Stay Local?

Outreach and community-based roles will inevitably involve travelling. Some social care professionals love the flexibility of this work environment and thrive on the opportunity to meet lots of new people and experience a transitional workspace.

Community nursing teams are one example of a job opportunity that is very varied and will usually mean visiting lots of different patients during the working week.

However, others may prefer the stability of having a static place of work. For example, if you live in an area with poor public transport, or where parking is rarely straightforward, this might be a better option.

Mental health support workers are always in high demand at numerous potential employers:

  • Hospitals and clinics looking for support staff and carers.
  • Care homes and nursing homes.
  • Colleges and educational establishments with a counselling team.
  • Human resources departments or occupational therapy units.
  • Home care or personal assistant providers, where a person at home needs regular support and perhaps around the clock care support.

The practicalities are essential, as if you select a role that isn’t going to be manageable long-term, it will cause more disruption and can be difficult to move away from patients with whom you have a great connection.

What Are Your Career Aspirations?

Now for the big question – where do you see your social care career heading?

If you’re unsure, that’s fine, but if you do have an idea of a rewarding role you’d like to work towards, this can be a critical factor in choosing the right mental health sector for you.

There are some fantastic apprenticeship vacancies out there, or you can select roles based on relevant experience that will contribute to expanding your CV and learning vital skill sets.

Little is as valuable in career development as practical experience. So if you’ve got a plan for the future, it’s a great idea to dive in, benefit from on-the-job training, and work towards your goals while gaining valuable insights into working in the mental health social care sector.

For more information about vacancies and roles in social care and mental health, please visit the OUTT.com portal for details of the latest placements available!