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Monday, 27 June 2011

Mental health care professionals

There may be many people involved in your care - including medical professionals who prescribe medication and therapy. There are also support workers who can help you with everyday tasks to help you to stay in your home or community.

Your doctor (GP)

Your doctor can provide a range of services including:

  • talking through problems
  • prescribing medication, where necessary
  • making referrals to another specialist, for example a counsellor or psychiatrist, where necessary

Contact your doctor straight away if you have concerns about your physical or mental health.

Community mental health teams

Community mental health teams can help people with a mental health illness live in the community with support. This could be on a day-to-day basis or support at times when a person may need it. These teams may include:

  • social workers
  • community mental health nurses
  • occupational therapists
  • psychiatrists
  • psychologists
  • counsellors
  • community support workers, like home helps for example

Community mental health teams can take care of your health and social needs.

Care co-ordinators

If you have different elements to your care, for example you see a psychiatrist or doctor, you may have access to a care co-ordinator. These are sometimes known as a keyworker or case manager.

This person will talk to all the different professionals and be a single person for you to talk to and support you. Care co-ordinators will be a member of the community mental health team and will draw up a care plan with you. You should be given a copy of your care plan. 

Community mental health nurses

Community mental health nurses are registered nurses who are trained in mental health and can:

  • talk to you about ways to cope
  • give long-term support to you in the community
  • give some medication

Community mental health nurses can specialise in working with older people, children or people with drug or alcohol problems.


Counsellors provide 'talking therapy' where you'll be invited to talk about your thoughts and feelings. The counsellor will then discuss with you ways of coping. Counselling can also be provided by:

  • community mental health nurses
  • psychotherapists
  • psychologists
  • social workers
  • occupational therapists

There is generally a waiting list for counselling services on the National Health Service (NHS). But there are voluntary organisations that also offer talking treatments - ask your doctor or community mental health team for details.

You can find out more about counselling on the NHS Choices website.

Health visitors

Health visitors are qualified nurses with specialist training who work in the community. They help people with a mental illness to continue to live in their home. Health visitors can:

  • help you stay healthy by talking to you about diet and exercise
  • be someone to talk to
  • offer practical advice about food, hygiene and day-to-day living
  • tell you about other services that may be useful to you (for example, they may be able to tell you about a local community group that you may want to go to)

Psychiatrists and psychologists

A psychiatrist mainly deals with the physical aspect of mental health, for example drug therapy.

Psychiatrists often work closely with psychologists and counsellors, who could discuss your thoughts and feelings and work out coping strategies with you.

Social workers

Social workers can offer you advice on practical matters like accommodation, and financial support such as benefits. Some social workers are specially trained in mental health and can offer counselling.

Approved mental health workers

An approved mental health worker has special training to help and assist people who are being treated under the Mental Health Act. They can be community psychiatric nurses, occupational therapists, social workers or psychologists. Their functions can include helping to assess whether a person needs to be compulsorily detained (sectioned) as part of their treatment.

An approved mental health worker also makes sure the human and civil rights of someone being detained under the Mental Health Act are respected.

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