Mental Health Issue and the Role of Social Worker

Subject: Psychiatry
Pages: 7
Words: 1652
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: College

Literature Review

The Field of Service

The field of mental health issues includes many conditions, such as major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and other illnesses. Mental health disorders may be associated with various symptoms, including non-specific ones, such as poor sleep patterns, neck and back pain, physical inactivity, substance abuse, and fibromyalgia (Burg & Oyama, 2015). Social workers are significant figures in minimizing the effects of mental health conditions on patients because they can help individuals to live healthier and longer lives (Talbert-Slagle, Ahmed, Brewster, & Bradley, 2015). In today’s world, it is particularly important to establish recovery-oriented services aimed at both helping patients to overcome their problems and to teach them how to implement self-care measures (Hensley & Dawson, 2017). One of the primary contributions social workers may make is to provide such services to mental health patients.

The goal of this paper is to address the roles social workers play in helping those living with mental health conditions. I have decided to focus on mental health issues specifically because they place a significant burden on many groups of populations, which will be discussed below. In the paper, I will discuss the target populations affected by such conditions, the existing practice methods, and the roles of social workers in addressing mental health disorders. Moreover, I will address the presenting problem in detail, along with its individual and environmental causes, as well as discuss the possible existing barriers to service.

The Target Populations

The target population for the problems presented above is people living with mental health disorders. Burg and Oyama (2015) report that mental health issues can affect individuals of all ages, genders, ethnicities, races, socioeconomic statuses, and educational levels. It is possible to say that individuals exposed to stress are at higher risk; however, the problem can affect anyone. It is evident that the issue of mental health conditions is especially acute in the United States, as behavioral and emotional disorders are some of the most frequent diagnoses in primary care (Burg & Oyama, 2015).

It is vital to mention that although all individuals can experience symptoms associated with mental health, they differ significantly based on the type of illness. For instance, patients diagnosed with schizophrenia may report voice-hearing experiences, while individuals having depression may have suicidal thoughts (Cameron & McGowan, 2013). Thus, it is crucial for mental health social workers to find the right approach to each individual based on their needs and symptoms.

Practice Methods

Mental health social workers utilize significant micro and macro practice methods to help individuals in need. Micro practice methods include referring patients to mental health facilities, analyzing possible changes and progress at an individual level, delivering new services and programs, and providing support to patients and their families. Moreover, social workers can work as counselors and therapists, helping individuals to overcome the problems they experience or learn how to manage them. Finally, social services may also include helping patients with transportation, housing, employment, and food (Talbert-Slagle et al., 2015).

At the same time, macro practice methods include advocating for their clients’ rights, minimizing discrimination associated with mental health disorders among the public, and eliminating possible abuse individuals may experience. It is possible to say that social workers are responsible for minimizing the stigma associated with mental conditions because they work with affected populations directly and know the challenges they encounter well. Moreover, social workers are highly aware of the changes in existing policies that should be made to improve individuals’ lives. For instance, they can advocate for establishing centers offering preventing services for groups at risks, such as those experiencing high levels of stress due to discrimination or poor family support.

The Roles of Social Workers in the Field of Mental Illnesses

Social workers play a significant role in the field of mental illnesses, as they are the people that all individuals can contact when they start experiencing relevant symptoms. Their contribution is crucial because they focus on both individual and family domains, analyzing the causes of conditions in context. Moreover, unlike some other healthcare professionals, social workers are involved in patients’ lives regularly, which helps them to evaluate the dynamics of their social, family, and psychological aspects. It is possible to say that social workers’ services in the field of mental illnesses are targeted; it means they approach each individual differently depending on their well-being and needs.

One of the other significant roles of social workers is that they may encourage patients to seek professional assistance and find ways to help individuals experiencing financial difficulties. Some individuals may find it difficult to talk about their problems and symptoms or believe that it is impossible to recover from their condition. Mental health social workers should ensure that patients are willing to improve their well-being by applying for therapy or implementing self-help measures (Hensley & Dawson, 2017). Thus, individuals’ symptoms can be minimized through collaboration with social workers.

Field of Service: Mental Health

The Presenting Problem

One of the primary presenting problems in the field of mental health care is that a poor mental health state can be highly harmful to an individual. As mentioned above, the majority of patients seeking primary care are those experiencing emotional or behavioral disparities (Burg & Oyama, 2015). Many people die because of mental health illnesses, as they can increase suicidal tendencies and lead to poor physical health outcomes. Another significant problem presenting in the field is that mental disparities are associated with stigma and the lack of public awareness and understanding. Due to these issues, these illnesses may not be considered “real” and worthy of attention, which may place a significant burden on individuals affected by them. Finally, some social workers remain unfamiliar with the services they should provide to mental health patients (Hensley & Dawson, 2017). This problem will be discussed in detail below.

Barriers to Service

The primary barrier to services individuals may encounter is their poor availability. Although currently, many insurance plans cover mental health services, some individuals may not be able to access those (Hensley & Dawson, 2017). This problem is especially significant for minority populations and those having economic disadvantages. These groups of people may be uninsured or have limited capacities to afford mental health care. Another potential barrier to services is the existing stigma associated with mental health disorders. As mentioned above, it may be challenging for many individuals to seek assistance because they may feel uncomfortable discussing their symptoms and concerns. Finally, another possible obstacle is that there are disparities in services among different groups of the population. For instance, individuals 65 years of age and older having emotional or behavioral symptoms tend to ask for help rarely compared to younger people (Burg & Oyama, 2015). It is crucial to address the causes of these obstacles and find ways to eliminate them.

Causes of Problems

One of the possible causes of presented obstacles and problems is the lack of public awareness about the impact of mental health issues on individuals and the ways to prevent such conditions. Notably, social workers and other healthcare professionals may show a lack of understanding, too. For instance, Hensley and Dawson (2017) report that frequently, they do not know how to address these issues and collaborate with patients to ensure positive health outcomes.

Another possible cause of barriers to services is that there may be a lack of consumer-oriented services aimed at helping individuals to combat depression. Hensley and Dawson (2017) report that in the United States, there are many local and community-based organizations providing support, advocacy, and education for individuals in need. However, many individuals may still lack access to such facilities, as they are available in a limited number of locations. Finally, the last cause of problems that can be identified is the lack of attention to geriatric mental health. For instance, 70% of older adults experiencing the symptoms of anxiety and depression fail to access behavioral health services (Burg & Oyama, 2015). Thus, these issues should be addressed to ensure that all individuals can receive mental health care, including the services social workers provide.

Values and Ethical Issues for Social Workers

The basis of social workers’ assistance is appropriate values and attention to possible ethical issues. For instance, social workers should not discriminate against individuals because of the symptoms they have or the experiences they address. Moreover, it is vital for social workers to be aware of the changes in behavior that may be associated with certain conditions and avoid judging individuals based on the attitudes they show (Burg & Oyama, 2015). The values these healthcare professionals should have are a dedication to help all patients, determination to provide excellent-quality services, and the desire to improve individuals’ symptoms if it is possible. In addition, they should be responsible for enhancing their knowledge about the symptoms associated with mental health issues, their causes and outcomes, and the ways to manage them. Finally, social workers should aim at advocating for the communities they are helping and enhancing their well-being on a macro level.

Final Assessment of the Field of Service

The report reveals that there are significant problems in the field of mental health care that should be addressed. Currently, many healthcare professionals are not fully aware of the approaches they can use to prevent and eliminate mental disorders. In addition, there is a stigma associated with this type of illness because many individuals are not aware of their causes and outcomes. At the same time, mental health conditions can affect all groups of populations, including people of all ages, genders, and socioeconomic statuses. Social workers play a crucial role in assisting individuals affected by these illnesses by offering their continuous support and therapeutic measures, as well as evaluating their progress. They can also encourage patients to seek additional professional help. In addition, they are responsible for advocating for mental health patients and their needs.


Burg, M. A., & Oyama, O. (2015). The behavioral health specialist in primary care: Skills for integrated practice. New York, NY: Springer Publishing.

Cameron, D., & McGowan, P. (2013). The mental health social worker as a transitional participant: Actively listening to ‘voices’ and getting into the recovery position. Journal of Social Work Practice, 27(1), 21-32. Web.

Hensley, M. A., & Dawson, C. (2017). Social workers and self-help services: Forging positive relationships. Social Work, 62(2), 139-145. Web.

Talbert-Slagle, K., Ahmed, S., Brewster, A., & Bradley, E. H. (2015). State-level spending on health care and social services for people living with HIV/AIDS in the USA: A systematic review. AIDS Care, 27(9), 1143-1149. Web.