Did you know that 43.8 million adults experience some form of mental illness in a given year? Within that 43.8 million, nearly 1 in 25 adults (roughly 10 million) are living with a severe mental illness. These are the four most common mental illnesses
American adults struggle with:
- 1.1 % or 2.4 million live with schizophrenia
- 2.6 % or 6.1 million live with bipolar
- 6.9 % or 16 million live with major depression
- 18.1 % or 42 million live with an anxiety disorder
For many years mental illness has been associated with some form of shame or humiliation and the reality is that many still do not understand the depth of the disorder for those who suffer from mental illness. According to World Psychiatry, people dealing with mental illness are challenged with two different stigmas
— the stigma of how society understands mental illness and how the individual themselves deals with living with a mental illness.
Social workers are in a unique position to offer hope and healing to those suffering from mental illness. Read on to learn about the need for experienced and competent mental health social workers and how a master’s in social work degree best prepares these professionals to meet the need of this growing population.
There’s A Growing Need for Mental Health Professionals
Education is the best way to create awareness about mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) understands that stigma can create humiliation and cause individuals to shut down or shut out any type of help or treatment for a mental illness. Their CureStigma Campaign recognizes that “the perception of mental illness won’t change unless we act to change it.
Social workers make up the largest professional group of trained mental health providers in the United States today. There are many roles within the mental health profession, such as practice, policy, and research. Each of these roles offers the opportunity to help lead the change and dispel the stigma associated with mental illness across the country and the world.
Employment Opportunities for Mental Health Social Workers
Mental illness is not isolated to only one population or group. The need for mental health professionals extends to almost every area of society. Mental health social workers can be found within schools, hospitals, mental health facilities, community health centers, and government agencies to name a few.
One organization in particular, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is the largest employer of master’s level social workers in the United States. Social workers have worked in the VA system since 1926 and provide assistance to service members, veterans, and their families. Here are a few job opportunities as social workers within mental health:
- Inpatient Psych Social Worker
- Healthcare for the Homeless Veteran Outreach Program Social Worker
- Substance Abuse Worker
- Community Support/Mental Health Intensive Care Management
The Value of an MSW and the Difference It Makes in Mental Health Practice
The skills, knowledge, and values obtained through a Master of Social Work degree provide an opportunity to adequately and effectively serve those in the world’s most vulnerable populations. An MSW equips individuals with advanced clinical techniques and provides them with the skills needed to make a difference in the arena of mental health.
As a current MSW student at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, I have chosen to specialize in physical and mental health. With my education, I plan to advocate for those who need help and educate all those I encounter on the importance of understanding mental illness and seeking treatment, specifically within the veteran population. Upon graduation, I plan on obtaining my LMSW (Licensed Master of Social Work) and eventually my LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker). With these licenses, I can dive into the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of those who suffer from mental illness.
Work Toward Healing At Baylor University
The Master of Social Work degree program offers three specializations and several areas of concentration. One of the areas of specialization is Clinical Practice, with a focus on Physical and Mental Health. This specialization prepares students for advanced social work practice in health care settings working with interdisciplinary teams.
Throughout their time in the MSW program, students will apply evidence-based practice models in advanced case management and in mental health treatment with focus on the ethical integration of faith and social work practice and health. Graduates will be prepared for direct practice, as well as health care administration and planning roles.
The stigma surrounding mental health can end and our nation's vulnerable populations can be helped when passionate and educated mental health professionals step forward and work toward healing mental illness.
This article first appeared on our Advocacy in Action blog. To access the original article, click here.
If you want to learn more about how an MSW degree can equip you to become a mental health social worker, check out our digital resource, Master of Social Work — The MBA of the Helping Professions.