Mental Health Nursing

Mental health nurses support and treat people with mental ill health such as anxiety, depression, psychosis, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, eating disorders and later life dementia. They assess, plan, coordinate and manage care, while working closely with other health and social care professionals plus members of the care team. They aim to build good relationships with patients, as well as their family and carer support network, to aid patients’ recovery.

What is a Mental Health Nurse?

Mental health nurses provide care and support to patients suffering from a range of mental health problems within hospital and/or in the community. As a mental health nurse, you will build good relationships with your patients, as well as relationships with their family and carer support network.

The typical interventions you will provide can range from monitoring for relapse signs, knowing what potential triggers your patients can experience and supporting them to identify these themselves, and to engage in meaningful activities to support their recovery. Success comes from being able to establish these trusting relationships quickly and to help individuals understand their situation and get the best possible outcome. By knowing the patients, you work with, you will be able to assess their ongoing mental health and adjust the input you offer them accordingly.

Where can you work as a Mental Health Nurse?


A mental health nurse working in a hospital environment is commonly referred to as a ‘staff nurse’ or when leading a shift, they’re referred to as the ‘Nurse in charge’. As a staff nurse you would work as part of a ward team to deliver care and treatment to patients who are in an acute mental health crisis but are too high of a risk to themselves or the public to be supported at home. Patients can be admitted and treated in hospital either informally or they can be admitted, detained and treated under UK Mental Health law known as the Mental Health Act 1983.

You will be responsible for assessing patients mental health and work in partnership with them and/or their families or carers to develop a care plan of support and treatment to help them get better. You will also be responsible for supporting your patients physical health and wellbeing. On some shifts you will be in charge of the ward and will also work closely with other members of your ward team such as psychiatrists, occupational therapists, psychologists, students and health care support workers to establish pathways for individualised care and maintain a safe therapeutic environment on the ward through group work, 1:1 patient time, multi-disciplinary reviews. Usually there are around 15-20 patients on a ward and the shift patterns you will work will either be: long days, weekends, and nights.



Community mental health nurses carry a caseload of between 15-25 patients and are responsible for coordinating their package of care whilst they are under your care. You will be expected to work closely with other service providers such as the general practitioner, social services, and charities to help you deliver care to your patients. You will also build relationships with the patient’s families or carer to help monitor their mental health, assess for signs of relapse, know what potential triggers they experience and support the patient to engage in meaningful activities in the community.

Whilst the goal is always to support and treat your patient at home, unfortunately on some occasions this can’t always be possible due them being too unwell to be treated at home, and you will be expected to work with other mental health professionals in arranging their admission to hospital, either informally or sometimes as a last resort under UK mental health law, known as the mental health act 1983.

The working pattern for community mental health nursing is usually Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, however depending on if you are working in a specialist community team, shifts can involve long days, nights, and weekends. You will need to be comfortable with traveling to visit your patients whether this is via walking or through the use of the car depending on location.

Specialist Services

Skills Key

Effective Risk Icon Risk Management
Adaptability Icon Adaptability
Emotional Resilience Icon Emotional Resilience
Communication icon Communication
Self Awareness Icon Self-awareness
Compassion Icon Compassion
Medicines Management icon Medicines Management
Intensive Care icon

Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)

For patients in an acutely disturbed phase of their mental illness and cannot be safely managed in a hospital ward.


Communication icon Effective Risk Icon Adaptability Icon Emotional Resilience Icon
Handcuffs icon

Forensic Wards

For patients who are criminal offenders requiring care and treatment in a secure hospital whilst they carry out their prison sentence.


Adaptability Icon Effective Risk Icon Emotional Resilience Icon Communication icon
Home Visiting icon

Community Crisis and Home Treatment  Services

For patients requiring short term crisis support at home on a daily or twice daily basis that typically they would require in hospital.


Self Awareness Icon Compassion Icon Effective Risk Icon Adaptability Icon Communication icon
New Intervention icon

Early Intervention Services

For patients experiencing their first episodes of psychosis that require recovery focused care, support and education to help them and their families to lead the lives that they want to live. 


Communication icon Effective Risk Icon Compassion Icon Adaptability Icon Self Awareness Icon
Children icon

Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

For patients under the age of 18 suffering from a range of mental health and behavioural disorders.


Effective Risk Icon Compassion Icon Adaptability Icon Self Awareness Icon Communication icon

Skills of a Mental Health Nurse

As a mental health nurse you will need a number of key skills to fulfil your role.

Effective communication skills/strategies
Emotional resilience
Medicines management
Self awareness
Effective risk assessment and risk management skills

- Effective communication skills/strategies
- Emotional resilience
- Self awareness
- Compassionate
- Effective risk assessment and risk management skills
- Empathetic
- Medicines management
- Adaptability

Case Studies

The following case studies will provide further information about working as a mental health nurse in the UK.

Healthcare Professional

Case Study:

After starting his UKRN journey in 2019 at West London NHS trust, International Educated Nurse (IEN) Bryan Bernal shares his journey including adjusting to life in the City of London and the wellbeing support and training received.

Manila, Philippines

Case Study: Philippines

Mental Health Nursing in the UK is a lot more comprehensive and better-structured than how it is in the Philippines. The differences in situations and the laws that encompass the actual nursing practice can be overwhelming but with proper guidance and preparation, an internationally educated nurse will be able to cope and practise effectively and efficiently.

Mental Health Nurse Candidate Skills and Experience Checklist

This checklist will help determine which mental health nursing setting would be best suited to your own skills and experience. The purpose of the checklist is to give you and your potential employer an indication of where you would be comfortable working and how they can support you in your future skills development and training.

Useful Links

There are hundreds of reasons that professionals from all over the world set up home in London.

If you have completed a nursing or midwifery qualification and want to relocate, find out how to apply here.

Are you a registered nurse and based outside the UK but looking to relocate?

Useful Resources

Help healthcare partners train and shape the NHS workforce to improve services and care for patients and users.

Mind provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.

Whatever your skills, qualifications or interests, there is a career for you in the NHS and we are recruiting now.

An Act to consolidate the law relating to mentally disordered persons.

Consortium Mental Health Nursing Trusts

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