Letters to the Editor (April 2013)

Profession needs to break down its silos

I write in response to Ms. Des Montaignes’s letter (March 2013) regarding the current inadequacies of mental health services for patients and overwhelmed families.

In addition to the many fine points she makes, I would add that many social workers who do not directly practice in the mental health field are remarkably undertrained to detect symptoms of anxiety, depression, or suicidal risk.

I have devoted much of my career addressing these unfortunate splits in our field. Insurance coverage rewards medications and very short term interventions, when we well know that the combination of thoughtful medications and a variety of longer term therapies (individual , group, and family) can alleviate symptoms and enable clients to live a fuller life.

The film “Silver Lining Playbook”, written and directed by the father of a young adult with bi-polar disorder, has struck a chord. This film illuminates and educates the viewer regarding the therapeutic value of a loving family, the ambivalence clients have about taking medications, and the potential to live a quality life.

Stigma, always a hurdle, is now amplified by the focus on violence despite its low prevalence in persons with psychiatric illness.

I just returned from Cuba where the concept of “it takes a village” flourishes despite dire resource issues. Patient and family have many people concerned and encouraging treatment.

Our profession could improve by breaking down silos between those of us in direct mental health practice and social workers in medical and other settings who could identify symptoms, intervene, and advocate for humane state of the art treatments. Parity with care of those with cancer and diabetes is way over due.

Sue Matorin, MS, LCSW, ACSW
New York, N.Y.

NASW should focus on improved compensation

In response to CEO Elizabeth Clark’s Social Work Month message to members highlighting how “advocacy amplifies resilience,” with all due respect, NASW needs to do a better job at listening and responding to its membership callout for improved compensation.

Look at the social media sites where social workers talk with one another and you will read of the frustration amongst many social workers about compensation, including the belief that NASW must do a better job making this a priority for action.

We know that the social work profession faces the challenge of “comparatively insufficient salaries,” and we ask what is NASW doing to fight for its members.

While the Social Work Reinvestment Initiative is one step, NASW must make improved compensation part of its mission statement and walk the walk in addition to talking the talk. On the local, regional and national levels, NASW members must begin to feel that the organization will step into this arena much more actively than it has done up to this point in time and employers of social workers must begin to feel the impact of NASW supporting its membership on this front.

Robert Engel, LISW-S, ACSW
Shaker Heights, Ohio