Mental Health Nursing

By Aedín Dunne - Last update

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Are you compassionate, caring and like to help others? DO you want to add to the lives of many and aid them in their pursuit to a better life of handling their mental health? If you have strong communication skills and patience, among other skills, mental health nursing could be the right career for you.

What is mental health nursing?

Mental Health nursing is the area of nursing that specializes in caring, treating and meeting the needs of those who have mental health disorders and illnesses. 

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering courses in the following subject areas:

  • Mental Health Nursing – UL, UCD, TCD, DCU, NUI Galway, TCD, UCC

  • Mental Health Nursing – AIT, DKIT, ITT

  • Psychiatric Nursing – WIT, GMIT, GMIT

Studying mental nursing in college

In recent years, mental health nursing has become a more popular area of nursing to study. All Mental Health Nursing courses are four years in length and will offer you the opportunity to develop your skills and knowledge in the area of mental health and working with those who have different mental health diagnoses.

In any course, your first year acts as a foundation year and will give you the basics of the area of mental health nursing as well as provide direction of areas that will be covered throughout your course. Particular modules and content covered may differ from course to course but in your first year modules may include Promoting Safety within a Healthcare System, Introduction to Mental Health Nursing, Introduction to Mental Health Disorders and Recovery, Psychology Applied to Nursing and Midwifery and much more. In your first year you will take your first work placement.

In your second year, topics covered may include Psychosocial Interventions, Promoting Recovery in Persons Experiencing Mood and Emotional Disorders, Mental Health and Wellbeing in Older Persons, Nursing Individuals Living with Long Term Conditions, Pharmacology and Sociology of Health and Illness for Nursing and Midwifery among others. You will also take 1-2 more placements throughout the year.

In courses such as Mental Health Nursing in UL, your first semester of third year will be a semester of practical placement. Modules this year will range from Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Crisis Resolution and Risk Management in Mental Health Care to Nursing in Primary and Community Settings and more.

Your final year will see you put all your practice into play as you will do your final Practice Placement to finish out your degree, usually in the very last semester of your degree. Beforehand, you will study modules including Mental Health Nursing and Complex Care Needs and Leading and Managing in Quality Practice while also working on your research project (Thesis/Final Year Project).

Career Options

The most obvious choice in this area is to complete your undergraduate course and work as a mental health nurse working in settings from hospitals to clinics, within the community or in private health centres. Many people will go forward and continue their studies at postgraduate level to specialise in an area of their interest. There is a wide variety of options to choose from. For those who wish to go into medicine or other health professions they will have to take the HPAT exam. More information about the HPAT is below.

After gaining experience in the field and possibly getting a Masters or PhD in certain areas, many may go into managerial roles or into research roles, teaching and lecturing in colleges and universities.

To work in this profession there are some skills and qualities that are essential. These include excellent communication skills, interpersonal skills, patience, a caring nature, kind, empathetic, a critical thinker, work well with others and work well under pressure, a desire to help others, stamina, passion and a problem solver.

Related Jobs

  • Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse

  • General Nurse

  • Paediatric Nurse

  • Intellectual Disability Nursing 

  • Care assistant 

  • Medical Assistant

  • Midwife

  • Occupational Therapist 

  • Physiotherapist

Further Study

Visit for more information.


Different courses and different colleges will have different entry requirements. It’s always safest to check with the individual higher education institution which is available on their websites. As a general rule Leaving Cert students should have a minimum of six subjects which should

include: Two H5 (Higher Level) grades and Four O6 (Ordinary Level) grades or four H7 (Higher Level) grades. Subjects must include Mathematics, Irish or another language, and English.

Certain QQI Awards in a relevant area are also accepted. These change from course to course so be sure to research further.

The maximum points for mental health nursing was 440 points last year to study in NUI Galway. The lowest points for the same course in DKIT was 356 points. The majority of courses in the nursing area range from 320 to 533. It is important to note that it can be competitive to get into these courses as not all students who got the points were allocated places.

Where can I study?

You can explore your options here.

Did you know?

  • It is believed that nurses can walk more than 5k on an average shift

  • Strong communication skills are one of the most important skills to have as a mental health nurse

  • 39% of people who took part in Mental Health Ireland’s 2018 survey said exercise was the most helpful tool for their mental health


Student Grant Scheme

Job description

HPAT Exam 

Aedín Dunne

General Nursing
Clinical Speech and Language Studies


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