Mental health issues are more common than you think in the US. Even before the pandemic began, rates of depression and anxiety were rising and have continued to rise as the world deals with the after-effects of the pandemic.
Recent data shows one in five US adults have mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depression. With mental health issues becoming a significant problem, the need for competent professionals to support and treat individuals with cognitive defects becomes even more necessary.
Unfortunately, not every American has access to quality mental care. A recent study revealed that nearly half of adults and children with mental health issues go without treatment because of a severe shortage of healthcare professionals. So, how does social work help? This article explores the inner workings of social work and how it can help mental health patients.
Provide counseling and therapy
Counseling and therapy are essential in overcoming the emotional and mental distress of living with a mental health issue. Using therapy, social workers can provide a safe space for everyone to discuss their feelings and experiences without being judged.
While working on their clinical social work master’s at a prestigious academic institution such as Cleveland State University, social workers learn scientific-based techniques that help them guide clients toward their goals and enhance their quality of life.
Depending on the client’s diagnosis, a social worker will use multiple counseling approaches, such as cognitive behavior therapy, family therapy or task-centered practice.
This way, mental health patients can identify and cope with triggers effectively. In doing so, they can work towards reestablishing relationships with friends and families, develop interpersonal skills and eliminate self-destructive behaviors.
Raise mental health awareness
With more knowledge comes the tremendous potential to confront an issue. Mental health is still considered taboo in some circles, prompting individuals to hide their issues and live without treatment. This can only do more harm than good. Raising mental health awareness can reduce the stigma and encourage more individuals to seek treatment.
Social work can help raise awareness by educating the community about mental health. For instance, social workers can offer information and resources about mental health to help people understand the importance of seeking assistance. Through open discussions, mental health will become less foreign and intimidating to everyone, making it easier for individuals to ask for help.
Advocate on behalf of mental health patients
Advocacy is a core pillar of social work. By giving a voice to the underserved, social work ensures that marginalized communities are not forgotten. This way, individuals, especially those with mental health issues, can confront the challenges they may struggle to overcome alone.
While this wave of depression and anxiety is challenging, social workers are uniquely positioned to reduce the stigma linked with mental health issues. Every society has a different perspective on mental health. For many, mental health issues are weaknesses that need to be hidden. This can make it more challenging for those struggling to open up and seek help.
Similar to physical health, mental health issues can worsen if left untreated. One of the most effective ways for social workers to help is to advocate for mental health patients.
By advocating for mental health patients, social workers can guide policymakers and government officials in understanding symptoms and finding ways to support individuals living with mental health issues. Since social workers work directly with these individuals, they can relate experiences of how existing policies affect mental health. This, in turn, allows them to influence policies within their communities and alleviate the mental health crisis.
How to become a mental health social worker
Now that you have learned the impact of social work on mental health patients, this section will provide a step-by-step guide to being the change you want to see in the world.
The initial step toward becoming a mental health social worker is to obtain an undergraduate degree in social work. This way, you can build a strong foundation with knowledge about the different mental health conditions and the inner workings of counseling.
Once you’ve completed your undergraduate studies, pursuing an advanced degree is critical to improving your professional opportunities and developing a specialization. While studying for your master’s degree, you will learn the methods associated with social change and how you can interact with economic equity and systemic diversity.
This makes it more important to find the right academic institution. A rule of thumb is to opt for a college or university that offers concentrations that align with your personal and professional goals. More often than not, MSW programs offer several concentrations to tailor your education to your career.
For example, if you want to become a mental health social worker, find a related concentration and search for academic programs in that area. Through this process, you can ensure you have the academic expertise and training to perform your responsibilities in the real world.
After completing your educational requirements, the ultimate step is to acquire a state license. Each state has unique license requirements, although most require the completion of an MSW and two years of comprehensive clinical experience. Upon passing the Association of Social Work Boards exam, you can earn your license.
You may also want to take certification examinations such as the Certified Social Worker in Health if you pursue a mental health social worker position. By earning this certification, you can demonstrate to prospective employers that you have sufficient skills and qualifications to perform healthcare responsibilities.
Starting a meaningful career as a social worker today
Mental health social workers are needed more than ever before as the country continues to deal with the after-effects of the pandemic. Work towards a meaningful career by being what the country needs and become a social worker today.