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  • Zach Johnson

The Unsung Heroes: Being a Mental Health Tech in a Psych Hospital


A psych hospital that a mental health tech may work at.
St. Vincent's Hospital Honoria Conway-Heather

Introduction: Challenges & Strategies

Working in a psychiatric hospital as a mental health technician (MHT) is a unique and rewarding career. These caregivers play a critical role in patient care, providing essential support to both clinical staff and patients with mental health disorders. However, this line of work also presents several challenges that MHTs must face daily. In this blog post, we'll explore the difficult aspects of being a mental health technician in a psych hospital and how MHTs cope with these challenges.


Emotional demands and vicarious trauma

Mental health techs often deal with emotionally charged situations and encounter patients in severe distress. As a result, they may experience vicarious trauma, which is the emotional and psychological impact of being indirectly exposed to traumatic experiences. This can lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout. MHTs must develop self-care strategies and seek support from colleagues and supervisors to maintain their emotional well-being.

MHTs must develop self-care strategies and seek support from colleagues and supervisors to maintain their emotional well-being.

Personal boundaries and professional distance

Building rapport with patients is crucial in mental health care, but MHTs must also maintain professional boundaries to avoid becoming too emotionally entangled. Striking the right balance between empathy and professionalism can be challenging, and MHTs must develop the skills to navigate this delicate balance. Regular supervision and training can help them maintain healthy boundaries and avoid potential ethical dilemmas.


Managing aggressive or violent behavior

MHTs may encounter patients who exhibit aggressive or violent behavior due to their mental health conditions. Ensuring the safety of both patients and staff is a top priority, and MHTs must be trained in crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques. These situations can be stressful and physically demanding, but with appropriate training and support, MHTs can effectively manage these challenging behaviors.


Stigma and misconceptions about mental illness

Mental health technicians may face stigma and misconceptions about mental illness from family, friends, and even some healthcare professionals. This confusion can be isolating and discouraging, making it essential for MHTs to educate themselves and others about the realities of mental health disorders. They can advocate for their patients and challenge stereotypes to promote understanding and acceptance.


High workload and staffing shortages

Psychiatric hospitals often face staffing shortages, leading to high workloads for mental health technicians. This can contribute to stress, decreased job satisfaction, and burnout. MHTs must find ways to manage their time and workload effectively, while advocating for improved staffing levels and additional resources within their workplace.

MHTs play a vital role in supporting patients and clinical staff during some of the most vulnerable moments in a person's life

Conclusion: Rewarding and demanding

Being a mental health technician in a psychiatric hospital is a demanding and complex role that requires a unique set of skills and personal qualities. Although the challenges are significant, MHTs play a vital role in supporting patients and clinical staff during some of the most vulnerable moments in a person's life. By acknowledging and addressing these challenges, mental health technicians can continue to provide compassionate care and make a lasting difference in the lives of their patients.



Citations: Image, St. Vincent's Hospital Honoria Conway-Heather, Jeff Hitchcock from Seattle, WA, USA, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


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