What Is a Mental Health Aide?

Mental health aides, also known as mental health technicians, behavioral health aides and psychiatric aides, receive medical and psychiatric training that enables them to help people in a variety of settings. Read on to learn about these professionals' job duties, educational requirements, essential skills and career prospects. Schools offering Clinical Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties

While working as a mental health aide, you provide direct care to patients in hospitals, mental health facilities and treatment programs. Patients need your help to carry out their daily living activities, such as eating, bathing and getting dressed. You also monitor their behavior and activities and provide a safe and clean environment in the treatment unit.

When patients go out of the facility for tests, treatments or appointments, you may accompany and assist them in any manner necessary. You may also be asked to plan, observe, facilitate and document group activities and outings. When a crisis occurs, you must be able to intervene and calm the patient down.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Salary (2014) $26,220
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 6%
Certification Voluntary certification available
Similar Occupations Home health aide, childcare worker, medical assistant

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational and Training Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), psychiatric aides are required to have either a GED or a high school diploma. They must also complete on-the-job training (typically lasting several months to a year) with a supervisor before they can be cleared to work on their own. However, no licensure is needed.

Various community colleges and technical schools offer programs that are relevant to this career. Mental health or psychiatric aide training programs often cover psychology, nursing, crisis intervention, medications, substance abuse and personal care skills. Some employers also offer classes, in-services and workshops to prepare you to work with mental health patients. You may also need to learn on-the-job by observing experienced mental health aides at work.

Other Essential Skills

In addition to the training requirements, mental health aides must be healthy, both physically and mentally. You must also be free from communicable diseases and pass a background check. Working as a mental health aide requires that you are compassionate and willing to help your patients. You should have good interpersonal skills and be able to observe behavioral changes. In addition, this career requires that you are patient and able to handle stressful situations.

You also need to be physically strong enough to help your patients move and to restrain them when needed. You are also frequently on your feet for extended periods of time, so you must be physically active and have a lot of stamina to get through the work day.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS expects slower-than-average job growth of six percent for psychiatric aides over the 2012-2022 decade. Nonetheless, residential facilities, correctional facilities and outpatient care centers will demand these professionals. Now that health insurance plans have to cover mental health issues, there will be a demand for more mental health services and a need for more of these professionals.

According to the BLS, psychiatric aides earned a median salary of $26,220 in May 2014. The top ten percent in the field earned $42,310 or over, while the bottom ten percent earned $18,760 or less. Facilities that employed the highest number of aides included psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals and state governments, which offered respective average wages of $29,890 and $30,000.

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