Social Pulse: Insights from the Frontline with Lucia

In this blog, we delve into the world of mental health social work with Lucia, who has over a decade of industry experience. Lucia offers a candid perspective on the challenges, rewards, and strategies that define her role. From navigating complex housing needs to fostering trust with reluctant clients, Lucia’s insights provide a glimpse into the intricate dynamics of mental health social work. 

 

Can you share your journey of becoming a mental health social worker? What inspired you to specialise in this area of social work?

 

“I graduated in 2010, and ever since then I’ve been doing a whole host of things across social work.”

 

Lucia tells us there was a heavy focus on mental health at this time, especially following the enactment of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. 

 

“You couldn’t get away from it [mental health], so naturally I wanted to learn more and I guess that’s how I ended up in this area of social work…curiosity.” 

 

What unique challenges do mental health social workers face compared to those in other fields of social work?

 

A recurring issue is ensuring appropriate housing for clients with complex needs, Lucia explains. 

 

“In one case I worked on, a client wanted to move back to their hometown where they felt more comfortable, but suitable housing options were limited due to safety concerns highlighted by the Ministry of Justice.”

 

Despite efforts to advocate for the move, it was ultimately deemed unsafe.

 

“This was frustrating because we always advocate for clients to have their independence but obviously wellbeing is the priority at the end of the day,” she says. 

 

How do you approach building trust and rapport with clients who may be unwilling to collaborate with you initially? 

 

“There’s no such thing as one size fits all,” she emphasises. Even social workers with a wealth of experience have to take each case as it comes. 

 

“I usually start by reading their [the service user’s] notes, so I can get a proper feel for their situation. Then, I reach out – whether it’s directly to them or through their caregiver, depending on their ability to make decisions.

 

Lucia emphasises that in order to break down barriers, the client needs to know that the process is all about investing in them and their needs. 

“If there are language barriers, we bring in interpreters who speak their language, whether it’s sign language or via Makaton.”

 

“It’s all about building that connection and making sure they know they’re at the heart of everything we do,” she adds. 

 

How do you collaborate with other professionals to provide care to your clients?

 

Social work is all about taking a holistic approach, Lucia says. There are lots of moving parts that need to be considered. 

 

From GPs to OTs to day centre staff and even family members, collaboration is at the heart of getting service users the care they need. 

 

“This is another area where you really need to build trust,” she stresses, “and seeking permission from the citizen, before getting anyone else involved, is a big part of this.” 

 

How do you prioritise self-care and maintain your own mental well-being while working in such an emotionally challenging role? 

 

“Take yourself out of the equation,” Lucia says, offering up activities such as going to the gym, booking holidays and “watching Eastenders” as ways to switch off from the demands of social care. 

 

“You’re no good to anyone if you haven’t taken time for yourself and you’ll gradually just get ill if you’re thinking about everyone else but not yourself.” 

 

How do you distance yourself from particularly taxing cases? 

 

“You can’t, you’re only human at the end of the day,” Lucia tells us. 

 

“But if you find yourself mulling over and over the same case and wondering ‘could I have done that better?’ then it’s crucial to talk to your supervisor. 

 

“This way, you can iron out any concerns and verbalise how you’ve been feeling.” 

 

Most rewarding aspect of being a social worker? 

 

Lucia says keeping people safe and seeing the positive outcomes of cases is what motivates her most as a social worker. 

 

“A case never leaves you either – sometimes you hear about a client way down the line from the home team, especially if you were the last social worker to have input.” 

 

You don’t just “do and dust” a case, she adds, “it always comes back to you”. 

 

Social Personnel would like to thank Lucia for her invaluable insights and advice. We love hearing from our candidates about their experiences, and hope it helps inspire the next generation of social workers!

 

Interested in making the first step on your health and social care career journey? Give our consultants a call on 0203 8929 340 today and we’ll support you every step of the way.

carlette Isaac

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