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Social work and mental health in Northern Ireland

Third publication in the Office of Social Service’s Reflections series
Published: June 2019

Foreword by Sean Holland

The promotion of good mental health is integral to all aspects of social work practice. It is as necessary in family and childcare social work as it is in older people’s services and as relevant in statutory social work services as it is in the voluntary sector.

This document invites you to consider:

  • the child who has experienced the trauma of sexual abuse
  • the adult with a learning disability who also has bipolar disorder
  • the carer who is experiencing stress related anxiety
  • the mother who has post natal depression or the
  • adult with a drug addiction who is experiencing psychotic symptoms.

The purpose of social work is to improve and safeguard social wellbeing. The text highlights the complementary nature of good mental health and social wellbeing. If a person’s mental health is good, they will find it easier to manage all the aspects of their social wellbeing. Equally, action taken to improve an aspect of a person’s social wellbeing will promote good mental health.

This edition of Reflections highlights the distinctive contribution that social work makes, a contribution that is shaped by the role and purpose of the profession, the value base and ethos and the nature of the pre and post qualifying social work training.

I hope this will support social workers, particularly in mental health specific services, to assert the validity and value of the social work approach.

Reading it should also encourage social workers in mental health services to take pride in their particular knowledge and skills set.I also hope this document promotes a better understanding of social work amongst other professions and those in management and leadership positions.

I call on all organisations who employ social workers in mental health services to make a clear commitment to the inclusion of social work approaches in their provision.

Finally, as Chief Social Worker for Northern Ireland, I would like to express very sincere thanks to all those social workers who work to promote positive mental health in often difficult and challenging circumstances.

Sean Holland
Chief Social Work Officer