Time to Talk

Time to Talk

Time to Talk Click to enlarge

29 Jan 2020

Mental health is thought to affect as many as one in four people yet many still believe it is not an illness.

People are made to feel ashamed, which causes them not to speak out.  The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) suggests that social workers need to focus on the whole picture when they are dealing with people whose environment may challenge their mental health. However, they have to focus not only on the well-being of others, but also their own well-being.

“Social workers need to maintain a broad social view of mental health problems especially in regard to concerns about discriminatory practices, civil rights and social justice.” (BASW – Mental health and social work, 2008 )

Social workers face many challenges in their day to day work life. They put themselves at risk when working with people who have complex needs. In 2016, 186,000 health and social care workers in Great Britain suffered from a mental illness (Self-Care Psychology ). The impact of the trauma they experience at work can affect them greatly.

Self-Care Psychology discusses the 5 Pillars of Protection which aim to prevent social workers from becoming ill, frustrated or burnout. This model focuses on awareness, supervision, peer support, trauma informed and self-care. These areas give social workers the framework to remember that they have to think of themselves as well as others because their mental health is just as important as the people they are caring for.

The five main health issues a social worker can experience are compassion, fatigue, stress, burnout and vicarious trauma according to the Self-Care Psychology’s model. Most people believe that stress is not a real illness, much like mental health, however stress can lead to becoming physically and emotionally drained, and it is recognised as a medical condition by doctors. Stress can lead to social workers facing burnout - when they shut down so much that they are physically unable to do anything. Both these symptoms can lead someone to have poor mental health and feel tired both mentally and physically.

The Law Society Gazette  has written an article on the new well-being protocol that has just been launched. Court hearings begin no earlier than 10am and end by 4.30pm with an hour’s lunch break. Her Honour Judge Sybil Thomas states “where there is pressure on the list, it is the list that should give way and not the wellbeing of professionals, practitioners, court staff and judges.”

Social workers have to recognise their needs and become aware of their issues. This can be done by speaking to peers, taking time out or getting into a routine. They have to find a balance within their work life, so they are able to switch off and de-stress. It is unacceptable to be losing highly trained social workers due to ill health.