Social Worker’s Role in Mental Health
Three Simple Ways to Address Mental Health
Is your organization addressing mental health concerns? If you work in the health and human services industry, then your program could benefit from focusing on mental health. Consider these three simple steps below to begin incorporating mental and behavioral health into your social services.
Mental Health and Social Work
In many ways, 2020 has been a wake-up call.
As the world struggled to find a solution to COVID-19, other public health and community issues arose. Food insecurity reached drastic highs, domestic violence cases increased, and elder care grappled with isolation. One issue, however, has taken the forefront of both the pandemic and the future of health and human services: mental and behavioral health.
As of June 2019, approximately 11% of American adults reported symptoms of anxiety and depression. This number has since quadrupled in size, with 41.1% reporting adverse mental health as of January 2021.
With mental illness skyrocketing among Americans, social workers have felt the shift. Social workers are often the main point of contact for individuals to receive aid and resources. This is particularly true for those experiencing adverse social determinants of health and may not have a strong family or community support system.
A Chance for Positive Change
While this change is unprecedented, it is not all negative.
Although mental health has traditionally been siloed away from other social services, it affects all types of social work. In fact, mental illness is among the leading causes of disability worldwide. Alongside the focus towards mental health is a revitalized effort to better incorporate mental health services into all areas of social care.
Much like social determinants of health, mental health has a two-way relationship with other social issues. Those experiencing homelessness, food insecurity, or domestic violence also tend to have higher levels of mental illness. The more that health and human services address mental and behavioral health, the more these other issues will be remedied.
Three Ways to Address Mental Health
How can your organization begin to address mental health? No matter your role or function as a social service program, there are simple and effective ways to start doing so.
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) offers great resources to get started. Among their recommendations are three simple steps that all social workers can implement into their practice: meeting the needs of the individual, recognizing social determinants of health, and supporting a team-based approach.
- Meet the Needs of the Individual
As your organization works to better address mental health, it is important to first and foremost ensure that the full needs of the individual are being met. This includes diagnosis, access to care, medication management, proper treatment and therapy, and support services.
While many issues surrounding mental health are similar, each individual will have their own specific needs. Before your program can expand to a macro level, it is best to make certain that the personalized functions are addressing mental health.
- Recognize Social Determinants of Health
As your program continues to meet the needs of the individual, expanding to social determinants of health is the next step. Social determinants are important variables in determining mental health. Access to transportation, reliable employment, and community safety are all critical components to one’s mental and behavioral health.
When considering proposals for your organization’s outreach, make sure to check that social determinants of health are part of the discussion. If your plan does not address them, then it may be worthwhile to revisit it.
- Support a Team-Based Approach
The final step that CSWE recommends is to work on expanding your network to other organizations. The best approach to mental health is a multi-faceted one; the more community involvement, the better. As different organizations work together (such as homeless shelters, food banks, and employment services), they can more effectively address mental health.
One of the best ways to engage in a team-based approach is through care coordination. Central to such coordination is effective case management. ClientTrack™ is an industry leading platform designed to streamline case management and provide powerful care coordination. Click here to schedule a demo today.
Social Work for Mental Health
While the pandemic may not last forever, the need for mental health strategies will. Social work continues to intersect with behavioral health needs, and this is good. As more health and human service organizations expand their care to address mental health needs, more people will get the help they need to succeed.
If you or someone you know is struggling with adverse mental health, know that there is help. Consider reaching out to SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-6620-HELP (4357) or texting NAMI to 741-741.
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