Frontline mental health professional is the face of a new recruitment campaign launched in Oxfordshire

Residents looking for a challenging but incredibly rewarding career are being encouraged to train as approved mental health professionals, inspired by Oxford practitioner, Sijo Mathew.

Sijo – who is at the frontline when someone’s mental health deteriorates – is one of the faces of a new recruitment campaign launched by Oxfordshire County Council this week.

This is his story:

“Challenging but incredibly rewarding ... protecting the patient, and the public... bringing relief to patients and carers.

“These are some of the descriptions I use to describe my experience as an approved mental health professional, working for Oxfordshire County Council.

“It’s no ordinary social care job. I must balance each patient’s civil and human rights, while considering the least restrictive way of supporting them though their mental health crisis.

“I’m the frontline when someone’s mental health deteriorates, and specialist services need to become involved. They might require compulsory admission to hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983. This is a crucial moment when I must intervene, using my knowledge and expertise.

“My role is to protect the patient and the public. I coordinate Mental Health Act assessments with specialist doctors. This may require police involvement, such as if executing a warrant to enter a property to assist the individual. The role can be challenging but incredibly rewarding.

“The individual will be assessed by two psychiatrists, with me – as the approved mental health professional – responsible for making the key decision to either detain them in hospital or to make sure they are supported in the community.

“Detaining a patient in hospital for compulsory admission can evoke a lot of concern and possible stigma, which is why admission must only be used as a viable option when all other avenues to care and treatment have been exhausted.

“At every stage, I consider the human rights of the patient – their rights to freedom versus the need to protect them, and possibly their family and the broader public. It can be a long journey to eventual recovery, beginning with specialist mental health support once the initial assessment is completed.

“I believe admission to hospital is an important part of the process, ensuring the best outcome for the individual.

“When I talk to individuals and their families at a later date, that is often when I receive thanks and appreciation. They open up, acknowledging that the intervention had been needed, even if they didn’t recognise it at the time. I get a huge sense of relief when they’re recovering. It feels like I’ve really made a difference to their life. That is one of the most rewarding experiences anyone can have.

“Becoming an approved mental health professional has been an incredible personal experience for me. Six-months’ training, to an equivalent of master’s level. Then continuing to develop my professional skills with Oxfordshire County Council.

“I’ve never looked back. I’m so proud to know that every day I might be called upon to intervene in someone’s life. That is why an approved mental health professional has such an important role, and why I encourage others to join me in this rewarding career, where you can make a positive difference.”

Details of how to apply to become an approved mental health professional are available from Oxfordshire County Council’s website.