Career options in Mental Health

By Ranjan K Baruah

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has bought more challenges when it comes to mental health. It is one of the most neglected areas of public health. Close to 1 billion people are living with a mental disorder, 3 million people die every year from the harmful use of alcohol and one person dies every 40 seconds by suicide. And now, billions of people around the world have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a further impact on people’s mental health.
We must understand that mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders and it is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health. It is determined by a range of socioeconomic, biological and environmental factors.
The World Health Organisation’s constitution states: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. An important implication of this definition is that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.
In 2013, the World Health Assembly approved a “Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan for 2013-2020”. The Plan is a commitment by all WHO’s Member States to take specific actions to improve mental health and to contribute to the attainment of a set of global targets. The Action Plan’s overall goal is to promote mental well-being, prevent mental disorders, provide care, enhance recovery, promote human rights and reduce the mortality, morbidity and disability for persons with mental disorders. 10 October is also marked as World Mental Health Day.
Once we understand the issue we can also think of bringing a solution. The best way to bring solutions is to get involved in the area and work for positive change. Few designation or job profiles related to mental health issues are: Mental Health Counsellor, Psychiatrist, Mental Health Social Worker, Mental Health Nurse, Psychologist, Elderly Care Worker, Mental Health Advocate, etc.
To become psychologists or counsellors we can choose psychology as our subjects of studies. The course and subject is available in many different colleges and universities across the country and also abroad. One may choose to become mental health counsellors after they finish their course in psychology. Similarly after completing MBBS degree one may choose to become psychiatrist which deals on mental health issues. Many students are confused and ask me the difference between psychologist and psychiatrist. Psychiatrist is a doctor who can prescribe medicine where as psychologist is like counsellors and they can not recommend medicines.
After completing nursing education one may choose to do specialisation in mental health to become a mental health nurse. Nurses can choose different specialisation in this area and build their vibrant careers. Students studying Social Work may do specialisations in mental health to become mental health social workers. Apart from becoming mental health nurses they can also specialise in elderly care as both are interlinked. There are many other job options apart from these in the field of mental health issues.
Mental Health research professionals focus on finding out new illnesses; try bringing medicines that can help patients with certain illnesses and study more about various illnesses. We have very limited mental health professionals in the country or even outside which brings more opportunity for students who want to be in this field.
The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) is an Institute of National Importance governed by the act of Parliament titled NIMHANS Act, 2012. This institute is a multidisciplinary institute for patient care, academic pursuit and cutting edge research in the field of mental health and neurosciences in India. Apart from qualification aspirants must have the skills like effective communication, spirit of teamwork, patience, etc. This is a challenging field hence we need to have proper planning when we choose it as a career path.
(Ranjan K Baruah is a career mentor and skill trainer and can be reached at 8473943734 or [email protected])

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