The realities of COVID-19, political polarization, economic difficulties, and international upheaval have created stressful and pressure-filled existences for just about every human on the planet over the past 3-5 years. These forces have caused a significant mental health crisis. The current condition of mental health in our country might be at an all-time low. It will take serious effort and coordination to correct our course. Thankfully, a wide variety of individuals and professions can help this effort. Social work is one such vocation that can contribute meaningfully to decreasing the burden of mental illness on our communities.
Clinical Social Workers: Equipped to Combat Mental Health
Social work can be divided into a number of subcategories. One of these types is the clinical social worker. This particular type of social work usually includes more robust health and mental health training than other strains might include. Clinical social workers usually earn a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree that is specifically geared for clinical work in order to become licensed and enter the workforce. Once they have earned their MSW in clinical social work and passed their licensure exam, these professionals can practice as a mental health provider who can accept insurance referrals in order to provide mental health assessments and services.
Other Areas of Social Work Also Contribute to Mental Health
Though clinical social work is specifically geared for it, virtually every other type of social work can also affect mental health and can contribute, directly or indirectly, to increasing mental wellness amongst the various demographics they serve.
Addiction and substance abuse social workers work with populations that also often experience high rates of mental illness or are at higher risk of developing mental illnesses. They have the opportunity to build relationships with individuals who often fall through the cracks of the traditional healthcare system. Social workers in this space can help encourage and educate individuals about the importance of mental health and connect them with resources to pursue meaningful interventions and aid.
Family and youth services social workers serve vulnerable or interrupted family systems, or children that have come out of those spaces. Mental illness can be a common contributing or causal factor in undermining those family structures or compromising caretakers’ abilities. Building relationships with those family members can allow social workers to recommend mental health services and initiate processes that can contribute meaningfully to alleviating mental illness.
Community outreach social workers often work with health clinics, community centers, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and more to help address community needs. These needs might vary widely based on the population a social worker serves. However, every community needs strong mental health to operate well. Community social workers have a helpful vantage point that can allow them to detect weaknesses or disparities within a community at large. They can address ways a community under-serves parts of its population or fails to provide adequate mental health awareness and services.
Education/school social workers work with children and adolescents that could experience mental illness themselves or might have immediate family members that experience problems with mental health. Through relationship building, these social workers can flag problems or indications of mental illness both in the children they serve, and in immediate family members or caretakers when necessary. These social workers can then provide helpful resources to help combat those instances of mental illness.
Each of these service areas provide access to populations that are often more vulnerable to mental health problems or disparities than the majority population. Because of this, every social worker has the opportunity to promote strong mental health and intervene in the lives of those who might be most susceptible to experiencing mental illnesses.
How To Enter Social Work as a Career
If you are interested in contributing meaningfully to ending the mental health crisis, considering a career in social work could be a way to position yourself. There are a number of routes you can consider to pursue a social work career.
If you have not yet earned a Bachelor’s degree, undergraduate degrees in social work are available at a number of quality institutions across the country. This is the best route to take if you are interested in pursuing a social work career because it can often expedite the process of earning the Master’s degree you’ll need to start practicing. And don’t worry – if you have already earned a Bachelor’s degree in another field, this doesn’t disqualify you from pursuing a career in social work. Many Master of Social Work (MSW) programs accept Bachelor’s degrees from any discipline. These degree options will include introductory material to catch you up to speed so that you can engage well with the rest of the content.
After completing a Bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to complete an MSW in order to become a certified social worker. In-person MSW programs can provide the classroom setting some individuals prefer. Alternatively, a traditional online MSW program can be a great option to earn the degree necessary to begin a career in social work in a more convenient format. Whatever educational route you take to pursuing a career in social work, you’ll be able to have a hand in moving our country and our world past its current mental health crisis.