Social workers support families in complex financial, drug, alcohol, and discrimination situations. Social workers provide such families with opportunities to diagnose diseases and connect with legal or medical structures. Families with at least one mentally ill member often meet discrimination and feel solid societal stigma. Some families are not properly aware of getting medical care when they are mentally sick, and family members are trying to adapt. As part of working with families with a mentally ill persons, a special place is occupied by psychiatric social workers, who offer assistance programs that apply to children.
Psychiatric Social Work
Psychiatric social workers are helpers who have received medical training and education. Some social workers are trained in psychology or pedagogy and cannot work in hospitals that provide procedural and medical care to patients. Psychiatric social workers work with families where patients pose a danger to other family members and the entire community in which they live. Such illnesses include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, uncontrolled outbursts of aggression, and other aggression-related conditions.
Psychiatric social workers must help people suffering from severe alcohol or drug addiction forms. Such social workers can make predictions in hospitals and subsequently visit their families to check if the predictions are correct. Families should be alerted to possible forecasts so that they can take preventive measures in the event of a worst-case scenario. The psychiatric social worker focuses on helping the person affected by the illness, but the family also needs support. Parents or children of a mentally ill person can meet with stigma, and this “stigma is based on stereotypes” (Mignon, 2019, p. 9). It is necessary to monitor how the family copes with such stress. Otherwise, even healthy people subjected to pressure for many years may have outbursts of aggression. Another scenario could be the development of depression and even suicidal tendencies.
Community and family awareness programs are central to social work as they help avoid discrimination and ableism. Family members can attend sessions at hospitals where psychologists and psychiatrists are “explaining different treatment options and plans” (Psychiatric Social Work (Mental Health), 2022). There should be no place for shame, guilt, and condemnation in families where a person with a mental disorder lives. However, online consultations with doctors and social workers would be more popular instead of offline sessions.
The financial support program should include proper scheduling of expenses for a sick person. It is vital for families with small children who also require spending. For example, a mother suffering from severe postpartum depression should see a therapist and take Zulresso intravenously. At the same time, expenses for born twins remain; they still need clothes, diapers, and hygiene products. The social worker will help schedule expenses and contact foundations dedicated to helping mothers or people suffering from mental health problems.
Recreation programs aim to ensure that family members can take a break from their daily duties. Mathew et al. (2017) called this program “Respite services to give caregivers a break from their responsibilities” (p. 3). It is especially crucial for families with older people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Children and grandchildren need rest, so social workers can ensure that a mentally ill person is temporarily placed in a comfort zone outside the home: a sanatorium or clinic. In-Place Aging Programs will be excellent support for these families. There is a function of joint rest if the family wants to share responsibility for care with specialists while continuing to see and communicate with their relatives.
Children and Mental Illness
Support for children in families with mental disorders is critical, as children may experience severe bullying that is difficult for them to endure. If their parents or siblings are mentally ill, they need to explain what is happening to them now in plain language. Sessions with doctors and online consultations are inadequate for pre-pubertal children. They need a different approach, which social workers can provide, giving such children care and kindness.
Another problematic situation is a mentally ill child growing up with healthy parents. The child needs help, but other services will be suggested to him: providing the opportunity to study at home or in an inclusive school. Education for such a child is the most crucial goal and the door to the future, where he will receive a profession and job, not depending on his parents. If the disease has an organic origin, it is vital to focus on what the child will not access and what he can still fully receive from his peers and society. A social worker can help parents with paperwork for an inclusive school or class and tutoring work. At present, the most important option is the integration of such children into the regular school environment; specialized institutions may not be relevant.
Psychiatric social workers are professionals with medical education qualified to work in hospitals and provide expert care to the mentally ill. They differ from family psychologists, educators, coaches, and mediators, who can prescribe procedures and medicines. Social workers can help families by providing information, cost management, and recreation programs. A particular focus of social workers is on children, as they need help if their parents have mental problems. Social workers can also help children with mental disorders get an education and integrate with their peers.
Mathew, K. J., Sharma, S., & Bhattacharjee, D. (2017). Helping families of persons with mental illness: Role of psychiatric social work. Indian Journal of Psychiatric Social Work, 8(2). Web.
Mignon, S. I. (2019). Social work and mental health: Evidence-Based policy and practice (1st ed.). Springer Publishing Company.
Psychiatric social work (mental health). (2022). CORP-MSW1 (OMSWP).