These days, people are more aware than ever before of how important mental health is for our overall wellbeing. With depression, anxiety, and other mental difficulties on the rise after long months of isolation and uncertainty during the pandemic, mental health will continue to be a priority for years to come, and no longer a topic to ignore or hide. This shift is the reason why mental health-related careers, such as mental health social worker jobs, are currently in high demand and have become a great choice for anyone interested in the healthcare sector and in making a real difference in people's lives. Read more about social worker jobs
Mental health social work, also known as psychiatric social work, is a specialty within social work dedicated to supporting people living with mental health issues that affect their ability to get and/or maintain employment, secure housing, and overcome other challenges. The support offered by specialists in this career is usually in the form of individual or group therapy, coaching, assistance for accessing social programs, counselling, and referrals to community services or jobs.
This type of social work is also known for helping people manage substance abuse and addictions, as well as supporting them in regaining control of their lives and getting involved with their communities in a productive and positive way. Specialists in this field often work alongside psychiatrists and other behavioural experts to make sure clients get the medications they need and are not posing any danger to themselves or others.
Mental health social work not only focuses on clients but also on their families since they sometimes need as much support as the person living with a mental illness. Fortunately, this practice makes it possible for families and even communities to have healthier relationships with their most vulnerable members, allowing these individuals to live productive lives and build a better future.
Mental health social work began in the early twentieth century "as a result of a movement for community care of the mentally ill. Formerly preoccupied with institutional care of the mentally ill, psychiatrists now became interested in the control and prevention of mental illness in the community," according to an article published by the National Library of Medicine of the United States.
Another article titled "The Changing Role of the Social Worker in the Mental Health System" and written by Uri Aviram, Ph.D., assures that "historical analysis of the social work profession shows that its involvement in the mental health field has started during the early stages of the development of the profession."
About the history of mental health social work, the Global Institute of Social Work says that "In 1918, Smith College started the first training program for psychiatric social workers. While the program's first efforts were aimed specifically at soldiers and their families, psychiatric social work rapidly spread to other fields of practice. Psychiatric social work received another advance due to a general increase in mental health awareness generated by the activities of the National Committee On Mental Hygiene."
Mental health social workers, or psychiatric social workers, are professionals that provide support for people that suffer from mental health illnesses and substance abuse. Their job is to help clients tackle and cope with their issues whether they are behaviours or emotions that negatively affect their clients’ lives and by doing this, they play a critical role in improving overall wellbeing and mental health in our society.
In terms of responsibilities, what mental health social workers do depends on where they work and how they provide treatment. For instance, social workers in private practices who offer individual assistance do different things than their peers in non-profit organizations or community services that offer group assistance. However, there are several tasks and responsibilities that all mental health social workers do:
In terms of skills needed to work as a mental health social worker, there are certain soft skills that are absolutely essential for these professionals, such as communication, the ability to build a rapport with clients, empathy, compassion, problem-solving, organization, stress management, cultural competence, crisis intervention, and interpersonal skills.
To become a mental health social worker, individuals need to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work or a related field (like psychology) from an accredited university and complete an internship or practicum. In some cases, candidates in this field also need to complete a master's in social work (MSW) program. This is an additional step that may take some time, but there are accelerated programs for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in social work. The last step is completing the registration process with the regulatory body that oversees social work in the province or territory where each candidate lives. Part of that process involves understanding the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of their provincial or territorial regulatory body. After that, mental health social workers are ready to start looking for jobs.
These are the most frequently asked questions about mental health social worker jobs:
The most common issues faced by mental health social workers are stigma and lack of accessibility to their services. The stigma around mental health happens because many people feel ashamed or embarrassed about seeking help, and the lack of accessibility to mental health services occurs due to a number of factors like poverty, which affects people's capacity to find resources and attend appointments, lack of time to receive help because of work obligations, and other socioeconomic limitations.
Mental health workers can benefit from activities like sleeping, resting, exercising, eating healthy meals, and taking time for themselves to practice a hobby or simply be in contact with nature. These self-care practices are known to help anyone who suffers from professional stress, especially mental health workers who sometimes get overwhelmed by their workload.
The most common qualifications necessary to work as a mental health social worker are completing a college or university program in social work or other social science or health-related discipline, having some work experience in a social service setting (volunteer work can be enough), and being registered by a provincial social work regulatory body in most provinces.
Yes, it is. Mental health is a broad and growing field within healthcare with certain roles that don't necessarily require people to hold a post-secondary education degree, just a certification or training. For instance, some people can work in healthcare settings as substance abuse counsellors, caseworkers, social services assistants and other roles related to mental health.
Absolutely. Sign in to your Caring Support account (or create one, if you haven't already) to discover all the opportunities to work as a mental health social worker available for you across Ontario.
Mental health recovery workers are social workers who help adults and young people with mental health problems or learning disabilities to improve their lives. They provide them with practical support, resources, and advice so they can become productive members of their communities.
Mental health rehabilitation workers are social workers who work under the guidance and supervision of other mental health professionals like psychologists or psychiatrists to provide mental health intervention to people who need it. These social workers are usually employed in long-term care settings and their work is focused on residents and clients, as well as their families.
Seniors’ mental health workers provide specialized mental health services to senior citizens (65 years of age and up). To become a specialist in this field, people usually need to complete an academic program that teaches them how to support and assist individuals with age-related mental health disorders, like dementia or psychosis. They also need to learn skills to help these individuals remain in their communities and to prevent psychiatric hospitalization, whenever possible.
Mental health social workers help essential and frontline workers overcome some of the challenges they have been facing since the beginning of the pandemic, like exhaustion, stress, lack of resources to do their jobs, fear about their own health, grief, depression, burnout, and even lack of training to perform their changing roles.
Absolutely. Mental health social workers who work in prisons and other correctional settings help inmates deal with mental health issues and support their mental well-being during their time behind bars. The most common mental health issues these social workers deal with are depressive disorders, bipolar disorders, personality disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorders.
Social workers employed in psychiatric hospitals or general hospitals usually provide therapy, counselling, and treatment to patients. In most cases, they are members of interdisciplinary teams that include nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, and other physicians, and that collaborate on care plans for people dealing with mental health disorders.
Yes. Some schools employ mental health professionals to support early identification and early intervention services for students who need them. They also coordinate and lead mental health awareness and stigma-reduction initiatives to help students understand the importance of mental health and learn to identify when they or someone they know needs to seek help.
You can sign in to your Caring Support account (or create one, if you haven't already) to browse all the opportunities to work as a Youth Mental Health Social Worker available for you across Ontario.
Mental health disability support workers are healthcare workers who provide support to people with mental health-related disabilities, meaning those that limit them to perform their daily activities. Most of the disabilities in this category are related to emotional and psychological issues, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, anorexia, etc.
Mental health social workers can also help people struggling with addiction issues since the two are very much related. Social workers in this dual field support people in developing new coping skills to improve their quality of life. They also assess related problems, develop action plans, and provide crisis intervention as necessary.
Registered mental health social workers can find employment in numerous work settings, such as private practices, local government, hospitals, mental health clinics, community health organizations, primary care facilities, rehabilitation treatment centres, individual and family services centres, and other places. Most of them work in offices where they assist clients in person or virtually, but others may have to visit clients at their homes or at long-term care facilities.
To find mental health and clinical social work jobs or mental health and substance abuse social workers jobs, professionals in this field can rely on job boards online such as our very own Caring Support platform, where they will find numerous work opportunities across Ontario and soon in the rest of Canada and North America. Our platform has full-time and part-time social work and mental health jobs available at prestigious and well-known healthcare organizations that are looking for skilled healthcare workers to join their workforce.
One of the best features of mental health social work and any other mental health work, like psychology and psychiatry, is that these healthcare workers can perform remote work perfectly well since their work almost never requires the physical examination of patients. In fact, after the pandemic started, many mental health workers were able to take their practices fully virtual, which has benefited them and their patients in terms of flexible work hours and availability to treat patients from anywhere in the country.
Of course, the relationship between mental health workers and remote work is not perfect. There are some cons to consider, such as specialists not being able to get all the visual cues they were able to perceive from patients in an in-person setting. There's also the fact that some patients find it hard to find a private and quiet space to attend virtual appointments due to having kids, roommates around at all times or environmental noise sources, such as loud music coming from outside, construction work, and other factors.
Nevertheless, mental health workers, like mental health social workers, have found remote work to be the best solution to balance their professional and personal lives and still give back to the community through their valuable work.
Last, but not least, let's talk about salaries.
According to multiple sources, the national average salary for mental health social workers in Canada is CAD$50,951 per year. However, other sources assure that the right number is anywhere between CAD$70,629 per year, for entry-level positions, and CAD$88,062 per year for more experienced workers, especially in Ontario and BC, where social workers, in general, are paid the most.
What do you think of mental health social worker jobs now that you know all about them? Do you still have questions about this promising and in-demand career? Then leave us a comment below! We will gladly offer you more information on the subject. And if you want to see for yourself all the job opportunities available for people in this career path, then log in to your Caring Support account or sign up today. Our caring community awaits you.
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