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The Role of Social Workers in Promoting Mental Health Awareness

Therapy patient talking with social worker sitting on a couchThe past, present, and future of mental health awareness are tied deeply to social work. Since the early days of the profession, social workers have played a pivotal role in bringing attention to mental health challenges and helping people struggling with mental health disorders get the treatment and support they need.

Social workers continue to play a critical role in helping individuals, families, and communities access much-needed resources to improve their mental well-being.

What Is Mental Health Awareness and Why Is It Important?

Our society has long understood the importance of physical health, but perceptions around mental health have not been the same. For some, working with a social worker, therapist, or other mental health professional is not as acceptable as seeing a physician for a physical illness or ailment. 

Mental health awareness is about removing the stigma around mental health topics and helping people understand mental health disorders, coping mechanisms, and treatments. It seeks to put physical and mental health on equal footing so that people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds can feel comfortable maintaining the health of their entire person.

Greater awareness of mental health issues and their effect on how people live, work, and interact allows for more understanding and compassion for those experiencing mental health challenges. And with this compassion comes support to help those people enhance their mental well-being and quality of life.

The History of Social Workers and Mental Health 

Social work and mental health treatment have been closely linked for some time. In fact, the earliest social work education programs introduced mental health topics into the curriculum beginning in the early 1900s. Around the same time, the National Committee for Mental Hygiene was formed to raise awareness around mental health issues.

Social work has its roots in addressing issues of poverty, but quickly spread to include mental health after World War I, when the American Red Cross and US Army called on social workers to use their skills to treat soldiers for “shell shock,” now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). From there, “psychiatric social work” quickly became a staple of modern social work.

Over the years, social workers have become well-integrated in clinical care teams, working alongside psychiatrists and psychologists to ensure individuals have the support systems necessary to cope with the challenges of daily life. Today, clinical social workers are licensed mental health professionals in their own right and constitute the largest group of mental health providers.

How Do Social Workers Promote Mental Health Awareness?

Social workers play a crucial role today in promoting mental health awareness. Whether they’re advocating for the mental health needs of whole communities or working with individuals who need help managing personal loss, addictions, or depression, social workers help struggling people connect to available support and resources. Become a licensed social worker through an online program

Social workers fill various roles in schools, health care settings, and community centers. In addition to clinical social workers, they can also serve as school social workers, substance abuse social workers, and community organizers who work in partnership with members of the local government.

Depending on their qualifications and roles, social workers can further spread mental health awareness by:

  • Counseling individuals and families struggling with mental and emotional challenges.
  • Diagnosing and treating mental disorders.
  • Directing clients to mental health resources in their community.
  • Influencing public policy.
  • Participating in mental health awareness campaigns.
  • Educating the next generation.

As a group, social workers also build awareness through professional associations and networks. For example, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), “the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world,” celebrates Mental Health Awareness Month in May through a diverse offering of webinars, events, and other resources.

Promote Mental Health Awareness as a Social Worker

Social workers are respected professionals who work hard to end the stigma around mental health. Every day, they help people gain access to the treatments and resources needed for recovery. If you want to join that movement, consider becoming a social worker.

Pursuing a social work career can put you at the forefront of helping people of all ages and walks of life with their mental health challenges. Additionally, it can help you reach your personal and professional goals. For example, some choose a career in social work because of a calling to help others. Others become social workers because they want to advance their existing careers in education, health care, or public policy. 

To get started on the road to becoming a licensed social worker, you can earn your social work degree online. The Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree program with MVNU Online is accredited by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) and provides a comprehensive education grounded in the six core values of social work: 

  • Service
  • Competence
  • Integrity
  • Social justice
  • The importance and centrality of human relationships
  • The dignity and worth of the person

Pursuing your BSW degree with MVNU Online will prepare you for licensure. You’ll complete fully online courses and an in-person field assignment to fulfill state licensing requirements. Classes start every month throughout the year, so you’ll have more flexibility to fit your education into your schedule, even if you work full-time and have other responsibilities.

Although you may not yet be a social worker, you can support mental health awareness by supporting social workers and their efforts. You can take time to thank the social workers in your community for their life-changing work. You may also volunteer your time to support mental health awareness activities in your local community and create an open dialogue around mental health.

Consider a Social Work Degree

Social workers do so much to support mental health and well-being. If you think a social work career could suit you, consider MVNU Online’s BSW degree program. The program offers challenging coursework to prepare you for professional practice in a community, business, or health care setting. It will also help you develop a strong peer network of adult learners who are as committed to their educational and career growth as you are. 

If you want to learn more about becoming a social worker, get more details in our e-book, Earning Your Accredited Online Social Work Degree.

learn about our online Bachelor of Social Work program