7 Ways Social Work and Training in Mental Health Go Hand in Hand

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Social work is a profession that aims to promote social change, cohesion, development, and empowerment of people and societies. However, the term “social work” cannot be easily defined because it’s a broad field encompassing various subjects and disciplines. But, generally speaking, all social workers dedicate their jobs to understanding human behavior and helping individuals assimilate better to social surroundings.

Besides human behavior, social workers must have extensive knowledge of the social, cultural, and economic norms and institutions and how they interact. Their professional education and learning train them to address social injustices and barriers that exist globally. Although social workers work with several different kinds of people, they mainly focus their efforts on populations that are especially vulnerable and oppressed.

A social worker’s responsibility includes improving an individual’s well-being and maintaining physical and mental health. Therefore it’s crucial to understand how the two disciplines are linked and why mental health training plays a vital role in a social worker’s job.

Several factors link social work and mental health training together, but the following are the top 7 ways they are inextricably connected.

1. Advocating for change

Advocacy can take many shapes and forms when it comes to social work. But whether you term it as micro social work or case advocacy, its core principle remains the same: help clients navigate institutional systems. Since social workers have the knowledge and authority to speak up in legislation and policy debates, they become the voice of the unheard. If you, too, wish to connect oppressed communities with better resources, consider pursuing an online MSW degree to receive the appropriate education and training. Besides teaching students how to help communities overcome adversities, these curricula also offer mental health training. Such guidance is crucial in understanding your clients’ needs and becoming better advocates for them.

2. Recognizing social injustice

Several studies conducted in the past have shown that to achieve mental health equity, we must first dismantle social injustices. Studying human behavior and how mental health affects our actions is vital in recognizing and understanding social injustices. One of the primary job responsibilities of a social worker is to fight for social justice in various fields and industries. But to do this, they must first be capable of recognizing marginalized or disenfranchised communities. Some of the leading issues of social injustice in today’s world include gender inequality, racism, oppression, and unfair labor practices. 

Social justice also includes fighting against economic injustices in certain societies. For example, low wages, limited training opportunities, or high unemployment rates in particular demographic groups are all issues social workers can fight for.

3. Developing educational programs

Social workers who work in schools or other academic settings work on the frontlines of school-based mental health care. They assess and address challenges from students’ perspectives by working with teachers, parents, and administrators. These professionals receive special training that allows them to read between the lines. By engaging all stakeholders in active conversations and listening to what’s left unspoken, they connect the dots to understand the issues. They can then design and provide practical solutions to help overcome specific challenges. 

Besides working directly with students, school social workers may also provide training to school staff. They can help restructure the classroom curriculum to better cater to students’ emotional needs to prevent any difficulty from escalating into a crisis.

4. Crisis intervention

Crisis intervention is how a mental health professional recognizes, assesses, and intervenes with an individual during a crisis. Social workers support and advise these individuals in particular distress after experiencing a traumatic episode. They work to minimize the long-term effects of an incident. Using their training and skills, social workers prevent victims from harming themselves and connect them to relevant counselors to help them work through the trauma. Typically, social workers assist people with mental illnesses, substance abuse issues, individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts, and those facing homelessness.

Several economic or psychological stressors can trigger a reaction from these vulnerable groups of people. Therefore, social workers must have strong knowledge regarding these mental health issues to respond better when such situations arise.

5. Facilitating direct practice

In social work, direct practice consists of several different responsibilities. Mainly, it requires social workers to maintain contact with their clients and help them connect with the relevant resources or services they need. They must first conduct a client screening test to determine a client’s eligibility and needs for particular services or programs. Although this may seem like a relatively simple job, it requires expertise and talent to know which intervention to implement for a specific client and when. Therefore, receiving relevant training in human psychology is an essential factor in this role. As someone who can provide clients with direct social work, you can even offer mediation services or counseling to mentally healthy clients.

6. Community organizing

Social workers also work in the job capacity of community organizers. They rally the community around relevant social issues pertaining to that particular group of people. By optimizing resources and directing energies toward the most pressing concerns, they develop programs, raise funds, or train individuals to meet a particular goal(s). Grassroots and nonprofit organizations often employ such social workers as they have the talent and expertise to raise awareness and solicit donations for a particular cause. Since their professional education teaches them about the human psyche, they can better advocate for social change, drum up support, and develop plans for the community.

7. Promoting research

An up-and-coming field in social work is that of research. It has gained rapid popularity in recent years with the need to develop new methods and strategies to cater to a diverse population. Social workers as researchers play an essential role. Their findings can dictate governmental policies, transform political reforms, and influence funding allocation.

More importantly, mental health training helps researchers identify knowledge gaps and encourage them to fulfill these gaps by conducting experimental studies and developing new strategies. It allows them to put their personal beliefs and biases aside and conduct an objective investigation to ascertain where resources are deficient. 

Conclusion

Since its inception, the field of social work has been on the frontlines of unlimited economic, cultural, and health-related causes. This discipline has grown way beyond where it began and now includes several sub-disciplines, most dominantly mental health. Most social workers work with individuals with mental health issues, and therefore training in this field allows professionals to provide better services for their clients.

For those interested in mental health advocacy, research, or treatment, a career in social health may be well worth pursuing.