Social work diary: ‘It’s great to be asked to bring a social work perspective to the case’

A mental health social worker reflects on a challenging week

Picture credit: Monkey Business Images/Rex

Monday

An early shift starts with two hours answering the phone – a controversial new requirement of my team that’s been made by our GP commissioners. It’s quiet and colleagues debate whether mental health professionals should ever vote Tory. Later, I visit two people whose mental health seems to have improved since I last saw them. A pregnant woman whose depression has improved dramatically thanks my team and her praise leaves me feeling encouraged.

Tuesday

I leave the house at 5am to travel to a conference in London. I have fought for the time off to be able to go but feel guilty about my shortstaffed colleagues covering the office. At the conference I am inspired by one speaker and sickened by a minister’s agenda, which he denies is privatisation. During a workshop there are discussions about how social workers should not have to write anonymously to help promote a positive image of social work in the media. While not sure I am ready to ‘unmask’ myself, I do decide to write this diary!

Wednesday

My morning visit doesn’t work out as the teenager I planned to see is still sleeping. I spend the time liaising with other agencies on behalf of various people who have inappropriately been referred to our team over the weekend.

In the afternoon I go to A&E to assess a lady who has a history of involvement with mental health services. The lady has taken an overdose and her case presents a dilemma. I call a Mental Health Act assessment due to the level of risk.

Back in the office, temporary staff continually interrupt my writing up to ask questions. I don’t mind answering but am struck by how, despite qualifying less than two years ago, I seem to be the most senior person available to advise.

Thursday

My late shift starts with a nursing colleague asking me to co-work the case of a young woman who recently took an overdose in the context of a relationship breakdown and news of a relative’s health issues. It’s great to be asked to use a social work perspective to help someone rather than focusing on a medical understanding of their difficulties. I am able to refer this family for various kinds of support.

Friday

Our service is being inspected today and tokenistic gestures are all over the office as we try and look like we are doing what we should have been doing anyway. Care plans are getting signed and fire doors being shut. It’s a busy late shift where I rush between visits, assessments, trying to find a bed to admit someone, and trying to talk people down from suicide on the phone. I’m ready for the weekend.

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