Continuing in our new series of interviews with front-line practitioners, we’ve now had the chance to speak to an Approved Mental Health Practitioner (AMHP) about what their job role is like. Many social work students may be interested in pursuing a career in mental health, but unsure what that path entails; so we want to help explain and guide where we can.
What is involved in working as an AMHP?
“I’ll probably get shot down for saying this, but in my opinion the role of the Approved Mental Health Professional is (amongst other things) to determine whether a person requires detaining to hospital under law for treatment of their mental health.
There are other facets of this role – I find giving people advice or a better understanding of the law is a big part of what I do, because AMHP’s can have some of the best working knowledge of the Mental Health Act 1983.”
What does a normal day look like in your role?
“Well, no two days are the same! I think any AMHP reading this will recognise the concept of clock watching, wondering if the phone will ring. Days can go on into the late hours and there can be a lot of travelling, as it is not always the case that a bed will be found in the area you work.”
Did you need any particular training or accreditation for this role?
“To become an AMHP you have to be a qualified Social Worker / Nurse/ Occupational Therapist. You have to have worked in your specified profession for sometime before you go on to do the AMHP course.
Becoming an AMHP involves intensive study at Masters Level to make sure that the professional understands the legal framework the Mental Health Act sits within, and how it relates to the European Convention of Human Rights and Mental Capacity Act 2005. It’s full on because frankly, you need to know what you are doing as you should never take the decision to deprive someone of their liberty lightly.”
Why did you choose to go down this particular area of social work?
“As a wide-eyed social worker, the dream was always to become an Approved Social Worker (this was before the change to AMHP in 2008). I think it was always the path I wanted to follow, and I had a dream to get to what I perceived as the pinnacle of the profession.”
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
“Knowing that you helped someone at a time where perhaps they were unable to help themselves due to their mental health issues. There are times, literally, where I have saved someone’s life. I think its human nature. I’d want someone to help me if I were in that situation.”
What is the most challenging part of being an AMHP?
“Working as an AMHP can be challenging at times – there are sometimes difficulties with people’s perceptions of when a Mental Health Act assessment should be used.
Organisational challenges also exist, in terms of the assessment process, which are known nationally. (Find out more here)
Long days and late nights are one of my personal bug bears. But at the end of the day I enjoy being an AMHP. It gives me my sense of Social Worker identity.”
What advice would you offer to a student social worker or NQSW who is considering working as an AMHP?
“Recognise why you would want to be an AMHP. Ask to shadow and AMHP to get a sense of what they do. Spend some time with AMHP to see what they like about the work etc. It’s important you’re clear that this is the path you want to follow.”
While you’re here…
If you’re looking to work as an AMHP or any other role within mental health, there are several resources on One Stop Social that can help aid your practice. It’s important to understand the different topics within mental health and the legislation which influences decisions.