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Guest blog: Advocacy, empathy and compassion

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Education and training, Knowledge and skills, Mental health

To say that my role as an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) gives me job satisfaction would be an understatement. I am reminded every day to value people for who they are, helping them take back control and empower others around them.

Sharon Marsden: 'My hope is that, one day, every person referred to our AMHP service will receive the highest standard of care...'

The role compels me to restore faith, hope and promote recovery. In my view, being an AMHP is all about caring for people and getting it as right as we can in often complex and traumatic situations. This is why I still respond immediately when a call comes in.

I am a team leader within an adult community mental health setting, providing leadership role within a multidisciplinary team, which includes social workers and nurses. I have been an AMHP for six years and can honestly say that undertaking training and practice in this role has been the most fulfilling part of being a social worker.

I was a social worker for three years before I undertook the AMHP training in 2011. This was a natural progression which helped consolidate my knowledge and skills and develop a deeper understanding of serious mental health disorders, signs and symptoms. It also provided greater emphasis on social perspectives and interventions to address mental ill health’s impact on people’s lives.

Although once I’d qualified as a social worker I worked in adult mental health, the AMHP role has given me the opportunity to diversify. It’s given me the opportunity to work across different service user groups such as older people, children and young people and learning disabilities.

Legislation plays a vital role in AMHP practice. The Mental Health and Mental Capacity Acts underpin our pivotal role in treating people as individuals, making sure human rights are upheld and people safeguarded at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives. I have found this to be a very humbling experience.

As an AMHP, I am accountable for my actions. I must be able to justify and defend my judgements and decisions in each individual assessment. Often my intervention is at the point of crisis or I my become involved as a last resort. Despite this, I always start from the principle of least restriction, knowing the actions and decisions I make may lead to a deprivation of liberty.

The role has taught me not to make assumptions or be judgemental in any situation.  I am there to advocate and support service users, carers and families to understand and participate in the decision making process. In this way, my approach makes a difference to promoting independence, choice and control even within an inherently restrictive statutory process. My communication, listening and organisational and leadership skills have been invaluable.

There are many challenges I face as an AMHP, particularly in the current climate of austerity and pressures upon police, ambulance services and hospital beds. Not least of all is the challenge of managing our involvement in people’s private lives – a role we strive to fulfil with great sensitivity and respect for the individual.

My next step is to train as a practice educator for AMHP students. With my strengths, passion, drive and commitment I hope to influence and contribute towards the growth of the workforce. I want to do this by remaining part of a support system that is dependable and dedicated to strengthening our society. My hope is that, one day, every person referred to our AMHP service will receive the highest quality standard of care and service, as quickly as possible - care that is person centred and delivered with empathy and compassion.

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  1. Comment by Peter Durrant posted on

    I wonder if we know how many duty social workers find themselves having to cope with serious physical and emotional health problems after emergency admission go badly wrong. Now long retired I found myself in the eighties with my career virtually shattered, my family having to cope with the after-effects of severe brain injuries (as it is now called...) a broken jaw and arm et al. During the admission the man, clearly at the end of his emotional tether, grabbed the wheel of the police car which than crashed. He died a few days later, the police driver was badly injured and I found myself in a coma in the local hospital. This virtually meant the end of my career, I received no compensation from the local authority and my pension income was also affected. Only small mention was made in the local newspaper and three decades later, although now widowed and all the kids doing well, (although they were also very much affected by the accident ) I am still involved with third sector social enterprise thinking at eighty. Although it has been a difficult path since but, fortuitously, great support from a local hospital psychologist in the months afterwards. But virtually none from the local authority. Anon.


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