This year — 2015 — marks the 63rd Anniversary of Mental Health Month.
Social workers are the largest group of clinically trained mental health providers in the United States. (Newhall & Korr, 2004: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 2006. Social Work Speaks, 10th Edition.) The social work profession has a dual focus.
- Enhancing the well-being of individuals
- Working toward social and economic justice
For example, we can advocate for policies that integrate behavioral health with physical health.
We social workers need to reaffirm support for a national response to mental health that reduces stigma of those suffering from mental illness.
In addition we professional social workers should advocate for better services for minorities and also work toward narrowing the gap between those needing and those receiving services.
Ideally the goal is to detect mental health early on in a person’s life and to provide services. The best solution is to intervene in primary and secondary schools, and also have services available in colleges and universities.
The goal is to detect mental health problems before they escalate into serious harm and injury, both to those with the mental illness and also to others in society. As we read so much in our news today there is harm done which could have been prevented if those suffering with a serious mental health disorder had received treatment. One wonders why those closest to them did not identify their symptoms. And if they were identified what kept them from seeking mental health treatment?
Often mental health is seen as a stigma when it should be recognized as a health issue as important as physical health.
The signs that may suggest that a person is suffering from mental distress are the following:
- A personality change presents itself.
- The individual may seem uncharacteristically angry, anxious, agitated or moody.
- They withdraw or isolate themselves from other people.
- They stop taking care of themselves and may behave in risky behavior.
- They seem overcome with hopelessness and overwhelmed by their circumstances.
Another important way we social workers can enhance the well-being of individuals living with mental illness is to use our knowledge and education on intervening toward social and economic justice. We can strive for policies that integrate behavioral health with physical health. We can continue to advocate for legislative action to improve the quality of life with providing care, access, reimbursement, research and education in mental health.