Minette Moorhouse, mental health social worker based in Berwick, talks about her role on World Social Work Day.
I’m based in the community and I work with a variety of clients in their homes as well as in care homes and hospitals. Often the traditional care plans that manage for example pain, disease, personal care, social interaction, mealtimes and bedtimes do not sufficiently meet the needs of people suffering with mental ill health.
People’s mental health, and the support we can provide, is more relevant now than ever. We acknowledge as social workers, we are often the care plan; providing advice, guidance and support where and when no other services can reach. Through extensive new media such as Whatsapp, video conferencing and SMS Texts, I find myself offering support in the form of understanding, reassurance and encouragement, just generally being available. As a nation during the pandemic we are experiencing social isolation in its rawest form and knowing that someone is out there can make all the difference…
Working in mental health services we have to expect the unexpected and predict the unpredictable. That is human nature and we react to the human condition.
Maintaining your own mental wellbeing in these circumstances becomes the ultimate challenge. Contrary to physical health services and following a “treatment plan”, working in mental health is often about accepting what is good enough. It’s about respecting what someone else may need, rather than insisting on what we may think is “a good outcome”. Often something as small as a peaceful night’s sleep is a major achievement. Other times, an admission to hospital is the best outcome.
Most of the time, I am the person who gently has to challenge the views of others; asking questions about “how can you make this better”, “what has worked before” and “let’s look at it a little differently”. Especially in dementia services I have the hard questions to ask: “is it time for that long term decision?” and giving my honest opinion about what may be around the corner. We pay a vital role in the support of carers in the community; husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, neighbours and friends, who turn to us for support and advice. Sometimes people just need an ear, a soundboard to reflect what they may be thinking or feeling.
One of the many perks of my job is that I get to meet the most caring and interesting people. I get to work with a range of professionals, carers, families and people from all different backgrounds and walks of life. That is mental health for you. It does not discriminate and we can all say we have to pay special attention to our own mental health at some point in our lives.
I absolutely love my job and cannot imagine devoting my time to anything else. I work in an exceptional team, with other social workers and care managers, who represent some of the best skills and knowledge in the country. We depend on each other every day and I am proud to serve this profession.