Career Options in Mental Health

By Ranjan K Baruah

When we are hurt or feel uneasy or get fever or other symptoms then we consult doctors for our wellbeing. Physical health can be easily accessed and the cause of various health problems can be identified. There is a challenge when it comes to assessing our mental health as we do not have many professionals or experts in this field. Moreover the recent pandemic has brought more challenges and issues which are affecting our mental health.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on people’s mental health. Some groups, including health and other frontline workers, students, people living alone, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions, have been particularly affected. And services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders have been significantly disrupted.
Yet there is cause for optimism. During the World Health Assembly in May 2021, governments from around the world recognized the need to scale up quality mental health services at all levels. And some countries have found new ways of providing mental health care to their populations.
There is a focus on mental health around the world and 10th October is observed as World Mental Health Day. During this year’s World Mental Health Day campaign, there would be a showcase of the efforts made in some of the countries and encourage others to highlight positive stories which are an inspiration to others. The campaign slogan is “mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality” .
There are career options and opportunities for many people in India to work in the field of mental health. The scope is not limited to doctors but there are many other designations and job responsibilities which can be opted by our young people. Mental health professionals work with children and adults of all ages, helping them with things like: stress, communication, aging, self-esteem, divorce and marriage and other family issues like parenting, grief, anger, depression, addiction and substance abuse and other serious mental illnesses.
Aspirants may take up courses like psychology to be in the field of mental health. As there are different job roles or designation, academic qualification may vary like someone may come from the field from nursing, social work, sociology, etc. But to be a professional counsellor in the field of mental health profession one can choose psychology which is offered by different educational institutions in India and abroad. This subject is taught from senior secondary level as well as in masters level and there are special diploma and certificate programmes available.
This field is very challenging for which other skills are also required. Skills which are required include compassion, empathy, critical thinking, active listening, effective communication, etc. Patience is a must as one needs to work in different situations which are very challenging. One must remember that as a mental health professional, one needs to examine people with mental health illnesses and help them to deal with their illness by various methods. The methods which may be used include medical, psychotherapeutic, psycho-social or as a combination of various methods depending upon the person.
There is a confusion regarding two designations in this field which are related with psychiatrist and psychologists. Both psychiatrists and psychologists will be studying the behavior patterns of the patients. The psychiatrist will be conducting various tests and provide the diagnosis based on the symptoms. Psychiatrists are trained medical doctors and therefore they can prescribe medicines and psychologists focus on therapy sessions or other counseling sessions for the patients. One must get admission into medical colleges to become a psychiatrist and there are very few psychiatrists in the country which brings more options for doctors who do their specialization in the field of mental health.
There would be more demand for mental health professionals as people are facing challenges due to different family issues and other similar issues which are affecting them negatively. Apart from joining government or other areas one may be self employed and earn if they are qualified, trained, skilled and passionate to work in the field of mental health.
(The author is a career mentor and skill trainer and can be reached at 8473943734 or [email protected] for any career related queries)

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