The importance of supporting social workers’ own wellbeing should not be underestimated

The importance of supporting social workers’ own wellbeing should not be underestimated

After Mike Bush experienced a mental breakdown while working as a social worker he looked to improve support for professionals' wellbeing

Supervision meeting
Credit: Rex/Mint Images (posed by models)

By Mike Bush

Social work is a rewarding, but demanding profession. When I trained to enter it over 30 years ago there was nothing taught on our course about the importance of looking after ourselves.

Neglecting the needs of social workers – a workforce under the immense pressure to meet the needs of others day in day out – can come at a significant cost.

When I was working as a senior mental health social worker I had an acute mental breakdown and experienced suicidal depression. I know my experience is not unique among caring professionals. Ours is a sector where rates of sickness and absence, mental health problems and even suicide are elevated compared to the general population.

Community Care Live 14

Mike Bush will be running a session on workforce wellbeing at 1.15pm on day one of Community Care Live (20th May). Full details here.

My experience gave me a whole new insight into the impact of acute mental distress and led to me working to improve support for social workers’ wellbeing.

I developed a teaching session, which I’ll be running at this year’s Community Care Live conference, on promoting health and wellbeing to teach social workers and social work students about strategies to protect and promote their own mental health and build emotional resilience.

These sessions aim to help people develop a mindful appreciation of our own mental and emotional health needs and why we need to integrate this into practice as social care and health workers.

In my sessions I help people to develop a mindful appreciation of our own mental and emotional health needs and why we need to integrate this into practice as social care and health workers. The aims are to:

  • Examine what stress is, how it affects us and how we can understand and manage it.
  • Recognise the importance of looking after ourselves from our own perspective and that of service users, carers and employers.
  • Develop an understanding of a range of strategies to protect and promote our own wellbeing.
  • Understanding what we can do to help ourselves, including lifestyles, sleep, exercise, ‘eco therapy’, deep relaxation techniques, time management and prioritising our work
  • Knowing your rights as an employee, how to use your human resources department and the importance of union membership and professional associations.

This is all so important because it impacts the quality of care staff can offer. If care giving professionals are stressed, fatigued, burnt out or distracted, they will not be in a position to listen, focus and attend fully to the needs of those that they care for.

The care we provide can also be undermined by factors that impact our wellbeing such as bureaucracy, poor or limited supervision and poor management. This is not about the training or competence of care giving professionals but about their energy levels, mental state and focus.

Ultimately, care giving will be greatly impacted by the quality of the organisational cultures that support staff. However dedicated and competent an individual professional may be, they cannot sustain a high quality level of care without being supported to do so.

The overall quality of support currently on offer in public services is hard to measure accurately. But high absence and sickness rates tell their own story and there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that points to a need to address a deep problem in the support cultures in which social workers and other health and care professionals are expected to work.

One thing we can do is support one another. To help promote mutual help and support between professionals I have set up a looking after ourselves forum as part of The College of Social Work. I am hoping that this will develop into a highly interactive hub where social workers will exchange resources and take strength and support from each other.

Mike Bush is a mental health consultant and former social worker

Views: 38

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of Mental Health in Higher Education Hub to add comments!

Join Mental Health in Higher Education Hub

Blog Posts

Service user and carer involvement in education - 2019 publications

Posted by Jill Anderson on November 29, 2019 at 15:26 0 Comments

I have compiled a list, with abstracts, of recent articles on this topic. 

Download here

Creating Worlds Worth Living In - call for papers

Posted by Jill Anderson on November 20, 2019 at 14:39 0 Comments

Call for papers for the fourth conference of the Critical Suicide Studies Conference, to be held in Vancouver, 12-13 June 2020.



Deadline is 3 January 2020.

FURTHER…

Continue

Critical Voices Network Ireland – Presentations

Posted by Jill Anderson on November 20, 2019 at 14:38 0 Comments





See here for streamed presentations from the Critical Voices Network conference in Cork this month. 

View the…

Continue

Student wellbeing series

Posted by Jill Anderson on November 20, 2019 at 14:37 0 Comments

Trigger, the mental wellbeing publisher, have produced a student wellbeing series.  See link for further details and please post here if you have any views on these books to share with others.

Find out more. 

Mental Health: are all students being properly supported?

Posted by Jill Anderson on November 5, 2019 at 13:30 0 Comments

New Office for Students publication.

'More students than ever are reporting mental health conditions. This brief asks what approaches are being taken across the higher education sector to support them, and what more can be done. Using data available for the first time from the OfS’s access and participation dataset, it explores the outcomes and needs of students with declared mental health conditions. We consider whether universities and colleges are doing enough…

Continue

MadLove take over

Posted by Jill Anderson on November 5, 2019 at 13:30 0 Comments

Labelled as the suicide capital of England and Wales, where one person is dying every week, St Helens needs some love, it needs some Madlove…

For the month of November 2019 James, the vacuum cleaner, is combining his own utopian mental health design project, …

Continue

Student mental health and wellbeing in higher education: a practical guide

Posted by Jill Anderson on November 5, 2019 at 13:00 0 Comments

Good mental health is essential for students to manage the challenges that university life presents. This book offers pragmatic guidance to support academic and student services staff in engaging with this critical issue, both in terms of being proactive within their role to promote a positive approach to wellbeing, and understanding how to care…

Continue

'What can non-clinical universal approaches to student mental health achieve?': Funding call

Posted by Jill Anderson on October 21, 2019 at 13:53 0 Comments

SMaRteN are pleased to invite proposals for small research projects to investigate non-clinical and universal approaches to improving student mental health.



A whole university approach should consider how all aspects of university life impact upon student mental health. In considering non-clinical and universal interventions we have the opportunity to look up-stream and investigate how the context within which students’ study may be adapted to reduce the risk of…

Continue

Asylum back catalogue goes online

Posted by Jill Anderson on October 21, 2019 at 13:49 0 Comments

Back issues of Asylum magazine, from 2010-2018 are now freely available on the Asylum website as downloadable pdfs.  A great resource for use in teaching.



More recent issues will go up after 12 months has…

Continue

© 2020   Created by Jill Anderson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service