Mental Health Aide Education Requirements and Job Duties

A mental health aide, or psychiatric aide, assists in the care of the mentally ill housed in specialized care facilities and hospitals. The aide works under the supervision of a mental health technician, nurse or other professional to perform basic duties. In order to work as a mental health aide, a worker must have compassion, patience and be able to perform physically demanding duties, as well as deal with emotionally demanding situations.

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Education Requirements for Mental Health Aides

Training for this position does not require an advanced degree. A high school diploma or GED is the basic requirement for the majority of mental health aides. Subjects recommended in high school include math, science, social sciences, psychology and health. Hospitals prefer employees to have past experience as a nurse's aide and may require completion of a formal training program. The majority of mental health aides are trained on the job under the supervision of nurses and mental health professionals. Training may involve many hours of training in lectures, hands-on training or workshops.

Advancement Opportunities

Additional training and education may be required for those who wish to advance in their career. Opportunities do exist to specialize in certain areas of mental health care. Some aides choose to work with children or the elderly, while others choose community mental health, crisis intervention or alcohol and drug abuse situations. Advancement opportunities are limited for advancement with only on-the-job training. Aides who wish to go further in health care must consider additional education to become a technician, medical assistant or nurse.

Job Duties

Mental health aides help improve the quality of life of their patients. They assist in therapeutic activities, ensure that patients take their medications and document progress in patient treatment plans. The activities mental health aides facilitate are designed to teach daily living skills, enhance the patients' social skills and provide recreational therapy. To encourage participation, mental health aides need to have the understanding and skills to communicate effectively with mentally ill and emotionally disturbed people. While interacting with patients, they identify behavior and statements that require intervention by the psychiatric staff. Other duties of mental health aides include keeping records, entering patient data and transporting patients to activities or appointments.

Employment Outlook

Employment opportunities for mental health aides are expected to grow slower than average. Most opportunities should be found in residential facilities, with the trend leaning to out-patient treatment of those with mental illness, developmental disabilities and abuse issues. Growth is most likely to be seen in caring for older adults with mental health issues.

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