There are plenty of well paid occupations in the mental health field. There are psychologist, psychiatrists, therapists. social workers and an entire slew of other occupations. At the very bottom of those occupations is the mental health technician, probably the lowest paid position and the one that has the most contact with those in need of acute and/or inpatient psychiatric services. So what exactly does a mental health technician do? Just about everything that doesn’t have to do with medication.
When you think about inpatient mental health services, think about them as if they were services provided in a general medical care setting. A doctor might visit once a day. The nurse will supply the medication and inquire about concerns dealing with medications. If it’s a really busy day, she might even have to give a calming injection. In truth, most of the medical staff is preoccupied with paper work.
During team meetings that decide the plan of action for the patient dealing with a mental health issue, there has to be a reference point. After all, you can’t decide someone’s mental health plan without some indication of their current state. Mental health technicians are the ones who supply most of that information.
The mental health technician has 2 basic functions that span and entire spectrum of more detailed functions. Their primary job is to observe and record. In the medical and mental health world, if it isn’t recorded in some way, it didn’t happen. The mental health technician is supposed to pay attention to the behavior, affect and conversations of the patient. Technically, it isn’t their job to interpret, just to record. Tell that to a mental health technician who goes home at night wondering why an abused child just got sent back home.
In truth, the mental health technician is the foundation for the treatment of psychiatric patients who reside in facilities for any amount of time. They are the eyes and ears of the medical staff, but they are more than that. A mental health technician might have no more than a high school diploma, but they will face the task of calming acute situations, running groups that teach about coping skills and mental health related issues and keeping the patient safe in general.
They are underpaid, often abused by patients, subject to all manner of bodily functions and elimination of bodily fluids, dedicated to the patients rather than the company and they are the ones who go home at night knowing they tried to make a difference and wondering if they will ever succeed.
Though the mental health technician gets very little in the way of recognition or material rewards, they are like relentless soldiers trying to help the world one issue at a time. They aren’t all good at it and some of them get into the field in search of experience before moving on to related professions, but they do get an extreme education on the human spirit and what it is capable of. If you’re looking for intrinsic rewards in the mental health field and aren’t looking to make a lot of money, this might be the position for you.