Mental Health

By Aedín Dunne - Last update

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Are you interested in learning about the human brain, how it works, the difficulties it faces and tools to help yourself and others improve their mental health? There is no health without mental health and it is so important that Ireland provides services and professionals who are there to help. 

If you want to be one of these people who helps to improve and change the lives of many then you might be interested in looking at working in the area of mental health. Stick with us and we’ll talk you through a few different options. 

What is mental health?

Our mental health refers to our state of mind and mental well-being including our ability to recognise our own abilities, how we cope under certain circumstances and what we can contribute to everyday life. 

Mental illnesses are health conditions which affect our mental health such as changes in emotion, our thinking and our behaviours. Some examples of mental illnesses people face are depression, bipolar, different personality disorders and many more.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Mental health and mental illness relates to a number of different careers. 

Universities and colleges in Ireland offer courses in the area of Mental Health including:

Studying mental health in college

When studying a subject in mental health or mental illness, you will gain an in-depth knowledge of different types of illnesses, how to treat them, deal with certain situations and how to promote change and good mental health to clients.

The majority of courses are between three to four years and will require work experience and work placement to be carried out as part of your learning and assessment. 

Like most courses, the first year of your study will introduce you to the basic information you’ll need in order to gain a strong foundation in the area of mental health. As you continue your degree, you will gain a more in-depth knowledge of particular areas. You will gain the relevant skills to care for the psychological, social, physical, emotions and spiritual well-being of others in courses such as mental health nursing. 

In the area of mental health, it is important that you learn about different illnesses, methods and treatments for each individual and all courses in the area will help you to understand your clients on a personal level and help them to cope, improve their mental health and find different tools that have a positive impact on their lives. 

Course layout and assessments will differ depending on the area of your study. In the case of mental health nursing you will have a mix of work experience, lectures and tutorials while it is also similar in courses such as psychotherapy, counselling and psychology. Practical work is an important part of learning and putting your theory into practice. 

Career Options

As listed above, there are different areas of mental health you can work in from nursing to counselling and working in the community as a social worker among other options. For the most part, undergraduate degrees will provide the required qualifications. Postgraduate courses are also an option to specialise in a particular area.

When working in mental health, depending on your course of choice, you will work in clinics, hospitals, out in the community in community services, private clinics and health facilities. Many also work in areas such as research, lecturing in Universities and colleges later in their careers. 

Some careers such as nursing and psychology see many in the profession continue with a postgraduate degree such as working with a particular age group, with particular illnesses and so on.

Whether you are working on a ward or in a clinic with clients or in the area of research, there are a few qualities and skills that are important. These include good communication skills, strong interpersonal skills, empathy, compassion, a caring nature, the ability to work well with others, a desire to improve and increase your knowledge continuously and the ability to listen well and be helpful. 

Related Jobs

  • Nurse
  • Doctor
  • Clinical or Counseling Psychologist
  • Clinical Social worker
  • Psychiatrist 
  • Mental Health Counselor 
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Further Study

An undergraduate degree in many jobs such as counselling and psychotherapy or mental health nursing is enough to be fully qualified in your chosen field. Some people may use this as a stepping stone to their desired postgraduate degree to specialise in a particular area. 

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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. 

Last year’s maximum CAO points to study Mental Health Nursing was 419 (UL) while the highest points needed to study Applied Psychology were 532 (UCC). It is important to check the exact requirements of the course you’d like to study in your desired area. 

Where can I study?

To give you an example, there are Mental Health Nursing courses offered in the University of Limerick (UL), Dublin City University (DCU), Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT), University College Cork (UCC), NUI Galways, University College Dublin (UCD) and Institute of Technology Tralee. 

For other courses in the area you would like to explore, you can do so here.

Did you know?

  • Sleep is extremely important for your mental well-being. It is important to get between 5-9 hours of sleep a night, the ideal amount being 8 hours. 


Aedín Dunne

Counselling and Psychotherapy


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