A bit about “The Work”: Being a mental health Recovery Support Worker

Edit 29/5/17 I originally had more detail in this, but I’ve taken some of it out to protect confidentiality a little more and make it less identifiable.

My work is in mental health, and I get very excited about it, so first, here’s a bit more about my work, because I will be talking about my job a lot more in future, and I want to be clear on what I do, so it doesn’t look like I think I’m a social worker or someone way more qualified that I actually am.

First, you don’t need a specific qualification to do my job, and it’s mildly above minimum wage (£16000 quoted salary, also quoted as £8.20 per hour before tax), making it an entry level role, but one that requires direct working with vulnerable adults, so there is a lot of paperwork to make sure you stay on the right side of the law. You get plenty of training in this, but less direct training in specific mental illnesses, because your primary role is to “support” recovery, making me a “Recovery Support Worker”, which sounds really more fancy than it is. (Part of providing “support” is basic running of the home; cleaning bedrooms when tenants leave, cooking meals in the afternoons, etc.)

The house itself is a “care home”, but specifically, it’s a “rehabilitation and recovery for mental health” home, meaning most people are meant to stay for 18 months and then move on, however Lesson one of mental health recovery work: everyone is an individual. If someone is happy and stable, their social worker isn’t going to rush to rehouse them, and the company I work for isn’t going to push them out, because the room is paid for and the client is satisfied. There are rules and expectations, but the reality is that they can be flexed, if management deem it safe and appropriate to do so; I’m glad that is their job and not mine, because it seems like a pretty fine line to walk.

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There is another kind of rehab/respite, called a “crisis” bed. “”These “crisis bed” people are constantly changing, and are one of the more dynamic, interesting and also most chaotic part of my job. Depending on who you’ve got in “on crisis” will pretty much always determine how smoothly that shift is going to go, however, it does give you a pretty great insight into a huge variety of people going through mental health crisises at any one time.

That’s basically my job in a (rather large) nutshell, there are other more juicy sounding bits, like being a key worker, and making recovery plans, and taking daily records/notes, but most of these are exactly as they sound;
key worker just means you are the main point of contact, responsible that someone is on track with their recovery, like a personal tutor at university or school. (The less-often used “link worker” is their back-up, and frankly, less important.)
recovery plans are the plans about someone’s recovery, about what the staff have to do, whether it’s remind someone about a goal they made, or follow a certain routine to help someone get into a new habit. They get reviewed monthly and are ideally meant to be made with/by the service user, but this varies, there’s also no fixed way that they get written.
daily records and notes are just notes on a computer to show that we saw that person, and didn’t just ignore them all day, and did our jobs. We can also look back through them to track changes, but the tagging system is a little hit and miss, we’re pretty much at the mercy of our IT systems design.

That’s essentially my job, and in future, I want to go more into why I like working in mental health, what I’ve learnt from it, and why I think where you work is so important for your personal growth, but right now, the weather is nice and people are coming over for a barbeque, so I’m going to finish up, and get back to here on Monday, when I have…Yet another day off! 😀

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