NHS Careers > Explore by career > Nursing > Careers in nursing > Mental health nursing

Mental health nursing

Mental health nursing is often complex, demanding and very rewarding. As many as one in three people are thought to suffer some form of mental health problem. However, dealing with the human mind and behaviour is not an exact science.

Download transcript.

Therapeutic relationships

Mental ill health is often brought on by a crisis in life such as depression after the death of a partner. However, depression is just one of the the range of conditions that come under the heading of mental ill health. There are also neuroses, psychoses, psychological and personality disorders.

Therapeutic relationships between the mental health nurse, those with mental ill health, and their families is critical to successful mental health nursing. Helping people back to mental health is also every bit as valuable and satisfying as caring for those with a physical illness.

Core qualities and skills 

Your main tool as a mental health nurse will be the strength of your own personality and communication skills. You will need to empathise with the people you are dealing with and show warmth and care about them. Regrettably there is still some stigma attached to mental illness. Combating this and helping the individuals and their families deal with it is a key part of the job.

The danger of violence is often associated with this branch of nursing and one of the special skills required is to spot a build up of tension and be able to defuse it.

Find out what other skills are needed be a nurse. We also have information on the training needed and the entry requirements. You can also combine your mental health nurse training with social work.  

Depending on experience and training, adult nurses can hold positions at every level of the NHS career framework.

Diverse settings

Most mentally ill people are not cared for in hospital but in the community.

You might be based in a community health care centre, day hospital and outpatients department or specialist unit. You will need to have a good understanding of the theories of mental health and illness.

As a nurse working in mental health you would work as part of a team which includes general practitioners, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, arts therapists and healthcare assistants.

Try our personality quiz to see if mental health nursing suits you.