Letters to the Editor (September 2015)

NASW must put liberty of citizens, members first

This letter is in response to the article in the June 2015 issue of NASW News titled “NASW supports ban on ‘reparative therapy’ practices.”

I am in full agreement that social workers must act to protect children from this potentially harmful and coercive form of “treatment.”

However, in a free society such as ours, an adult should remain free to contract for whatever service he or she chooses without interference from the state, regardless of how potentially harmful such a service may be.

I think we run into a dangerous situation when we attempt to protect persons from themselves because they may not “know any better.”

In my view, such an approach is inherently paternalistic and runs counter to the basic tenets of our profession.

NASW must serve first and foremost to protect the liberty of citizens and its constituent members.

Mark L. Ruffalo,
New Bern, N.C.

Advocacy event omits ‘Stand up for Others’

I was really charged up reading President Wheeler’s enthusiastic piece called Leadership meeting brings optimism (June 2015 NASW News), in which he reported on his meeting with, and subsequent lobbying efforts by, “115 of the brightest and most committed social workers.”

That is, until I came to the part where Wheeler described what he called an “advocacy event,” lobbying Congress. And what were they advocating for?

The four areas that Wheeler mentioned all had to do with improving funding and other financial issues for social workers.

As an NASW member for over 50 years, I have a different definition of an “advocacy event.”

It does NOT mean advocating for ourselves. It means advocating for others, our clients and others who feel powerless and feel like they have no voice.

Whatever happened to our motto “Stand Up For Others” that is imprinted on the green wristband that NASW was selling?

I have worn mine proudly for years because no other profession would create a motto that is so dynamic and so representative of a profession’s most precious goals and values.

I am afraid that lobbying by the “brightest and most committed social workers” was wasted time and effort, skewing the values of our profession from helping others to self-interest.

I hope that future meetings and lobbying by our members focus on advocating for others and not ourselves.

Joel Fischer
Honolulu, Hawaii

(Editor’s note: To see the NASW public policy priorities for advocacy for social workers, the profession, and the clients and communities we serve, please visit: our Advocacy section.)

Word choice important in discussions about suicide

When reading your (otherwise excellent) cover article in the June issue regarding NASW supporting a ban on reparative therapy, I was struck by the use of the term “committed suicide” in reference to Leelah Alcorn’s tragic death.

Saying “committed suicide” is an unnecessarily stigmatizing use of language that surprises me, considering NASW’s commitment to inclusion and knowledge of the importance of words.

In reference to suicide, the word “committed” harkens to committing a crime or committing a sin. Both uses create stigma around this cause of death that is already a secret, dirty thing — something not to be mentioned in polite company.

“Died by suicide” is the term most acceptable to suicide bereavement survivors, though there are several other options. It’s important for organizations such as NASW to be leaders in areas such as this, so please consider your use of “committed” in the future.

Matthew Butler
Ashtabula, Ohio

Students should train to run for public office

Thank you so much for the article “Three social workers make ‘most influential’ list.” (July 2015 issue.)

I am 78 years old. In the early ’70s, professor Paul Abels sent me to an NASW leadership training. It seems to me that NASW and schools of social work should partner to train students to run for public office locally and then nationally.

We social workers need to be better advocates for our clients and to teach them to advocate for themselves.

What better role can a social worker serve in than as a public official?

I also much appreciate your July article “Mother, daughter earn MSWs together” — wonderful!

Molly Brudnick
Cleveland, Ohio