Social work and mental distress: articulating the connection

Pearse McCusker, Jackie Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Mental distress is prevalent across all social work contexts, yet social work’s relationship with mental health is insufficiently articulated and the contributions practitioners make to this area of practice are under-recognised. This action research study sought to explore and address these concerns from academic, educational and practice perspectives. It was conducted in two parts: beginning with social work students at a Scottish university, followed by social workers in three practice settings. This paper reports on part one, which examined students' preparedness for working with mental distress in their final year placements. Using semi-structured questionnaires, a focus group and follow-up interviews, the study set out to enhance understanding of the social work role, identify gaps in educational provision and develop ‘Learning Insights’ to address them. Whilst the results here suggest that many students felt unprepared for the complexity of roles and tasks in working with mental distress, some reported successful engagement in powerful and transformative interventions by the use of relationship-based methods. The findings attest to a largely unsung but distinct professional contribution social work makes to the amelioration of mental distress; one that is relational, that transcends technical-rational concerns and is encapsulated in the concept of connection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1654-1670
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Volume46
Issue number6
Early online date5 Oct 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015

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Social Work
social work
Students
student
Health Services Research
Focus Groups
action research
social worker
Mental Health
mental health
Learning
Interviews
questionnaire
university
interview
learning
Group

Keywords

  • mental health and distress
  • social work education
  • professional practice
  • practitioner research

Cite this

McCusker, Pearse ; Jackson, Jackie . / Social work and mental distress: articulating the connection. In: British Journal of Social Work. 2015 ; Vol. 46, No. 6. pp. 1654-1670.
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Social work and mental distress: articulating the connection. / McCusker, Pearse; Jackson, Jackie .

In: British Journal of Social Work, Vol. 46, No. 6, 10.2015, p. 1654-1670.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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AB - Mental distress is prevalent across all social work contexts, yet social work’s relationship with mental health is insufficiently articulated and the contributions practitioners make to this area of practice are under-recognised. This action research study sought to explore and address these concerns from academic, educational and practice perspectives. It was conducted in two parts: beginning with social work students at a Scottish university, followed by social workers in three practice settings. This paper reports on part one, which examined students' preparedness for working with mental distress in their final year placements. Using semi-structured questionnaires, a focus group and follow-up interviews, the study set out to enhance understanding of the social work role, identify gaps in educational provision and develop ‘Learning Insights’ to address them. Whilst the results here suggest that many students felt unprepared for the complexity of roles and tasks in working with mental distress, some reported successful engagement in powerful and transformative interventions by the use of relationship-based methods. The findings attest to a largely unsung but distinct professional contribution social work makes to the amelioration of mental distress; one that is relational, that transcends technical-rational concerns and is encapsulated in the concept of connection.

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