Social Skirmishes

I had lunch recently with a friend who is a social worker in a mental health team. She raised an ethical dilemma. What do you do when the client doesn’t want any help?

She told me about one of her cases – a middle aged man with long-term depression, isolated, unemployed and vulnerable. The man is visited by members of his
family. But the client seems to reject all help apart from a brief visit every month or so from my colleague. My friend gives examples of several exasperating visits.

“Have you tried volunteering?,” she says.

“Why?,” he replies.

“To get out the house and meet people.”

“But I have my family.”

“But you will meet other people.”

“Why do I want to meet a load of strangers for?”

Another visit went like this:

“Would you like to come to the mental health centre?,” she says.

“Why?” he says.

“To meet people like you.”

“I don’t want to be with a load of depressed people,” he counters.

The client used to walk the dog of a friend who lived nearby but they moved recently.

“Have you tried volunteering to go dog walking? You used do it for your friend,” she suggests.

“Yeh, but she was my friend I don’t want to do it for just anybody,” he insists.

And so it goes on. The man is coping with depression okay and may well be contented. The behaviour is a product of being long-term ill.

Can my colleague do anything or should she just leave the client alone and check up on him every couple of months?

Any suggestions?

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