Did you know that social work has been ranked the 7th most meaningful job in the world? This ranking is because it plays a vital role in the community’s functionality and keeps individual and collective well-being as its top priority.
This field significantly impacts the life and personality of the social worker. It is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting. When you are subjected to people who have been exposed to substance abuse, violence, isolation and depression, and inequality, you’ll see that their experiences will change you.
A social worker has greater empathy than ordinary people. That is because their job conditions nurture them in this manner. You can’t feel empathy for someone if you don’t let yourself feel vulnerable. This vulnerability poses challenges for social workers, and here we discuss the top five challenges faced by them:
1. Transformation Of Society
Society has transformed in the past few decades. Today, there is greater awareness about a lot of issues that were previously seen as inconsequential. These societal problems fall into the domain of interest of social workers. They work on ensuring that changing societal trends do not adversely affect society’s stakeholders.
They need to adapt to advanced generalist practices (AGP), so they can work in increasingly diverse communities and battle all the challenges thrown their way. For this purpose, many social workers are working on improving their skillset. However, most of them cannot adjust their time to pursue a full-time degree due to their busy schedules. Hence, many universities now offer MSW programs online to ease the pursuit of a master’s for social workers. It gives them the necessary skill set to provide adequate guidance to their clients in a more versatile and comprehensive manner.
Moreover, we see that the family dynamic is slowly shifting and that a support system is taking on a much more comprehensive definition. Social workers actively work to ensure that this support system has a long-term positive impact on individuals and societies. It also serves as a challenge for them.
It can lead to an uproar of frustration and other negative emotions in social workers.
The best way to deal with it is to discuss problems with your coworkers and see what they have to say about them. You’ll see that you feel better after letting all your frustration out and learning from your colleague’s different perspectives. In other words, it results in your professional development.
2. Increased Mental Health Problems
According to John Hopkins Medicine, 1 in 4 adults suffer from mental disorders. This number is only expected to go up in the next few decades. More people than ever before are victims of mental health problems, which means that the demand for mental health professionals has increased. Many social workers are responsible for providing mental healthcare services to those struggling with mental issues.
This transformation of society shows that it is essential that social workers continue to adapt and embrace new skills to do their job effectively. They must keep an open mind and consider every observation they’ve made before developing a recovery plan for a mental health patient.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there has been a 13% rise in mental health problems since the last decade. This increased statistic indicates that the workload for social workers has all but doubled. It indicates that they put out constant effort to make sure that every case is handled to the best of their ability.
3. Development of A Coping Mechanism
As stated above, a social worker is subjected to much frustration and stress. They often have to carry the burden of all their patients. To deal with this, you must develop healthy coping mechanisms. Ensuring self-care is very important if you want to do your job adeptly.
As a social worker, you work in a vulnerable state with your patient as it helps you develop a better sense of empathy. The best way to go about this is to set limitations for yourself. Know what you can cope with and what can negatively affect you. Next, try to add small, considerable changes to your routine whenever possible. Say, if you go for a walk every day, switch that with a morning jog.
Always think about all the positive things your job brings to the table for yourself and your patient. You are changing lives! Moreover, maintain a healthy personal and social life outside your job setting. Your friends and family act as your support system, and this helps you cope with problems in a much better manner.
4. Unpredictable Schedules
Social work jobs do not have the traditional 9-to-5 job routine. They usually operate out of this work routine, and some weeks you won’t even have any day off. It ultimately leads to a disrupted work-life balance. As stated in the first point, society has undergone a significant transformation. It has also transformed the basic work model of most organizations. Hence, social workers must work extra hours to achieve their goals.
However, we see that many organizations are now adopting a flexible routine. This flexibility may enable social workers to maintain some semblance of a work-life balance. They can make time for family commitments, hang out with friends, and meditate.
This flexibility also causes unpredictability in schedules and timetables. However, balancing this unpredictable schedule with your personal life is up to you.
5. Physical Risks To Social Workers
Social workers have to fit home visitations into their schedules. They generally pose a greater risk to their well-being due to a greater risk of physical harm. Do you remember the case of Lara Sobel? She was a social worker who was shot dead by one of her clients who lost custody of her daughter. Lara Sobel killed her social worker in retribution.
Social workers also visit houses in low-income areas with deteriorating buildings and sketchy neighbors. These houses often have pathogens, molds, broken stairs, and exposed wires. They can cause serious injury to them.
Moreover, talking to mentally unstable clients can lead to dangerous situations, as stated above. Mentally unstable patients are generally frail and hence very harmful when they want to be.
A social worker puts in great effort to ensure individual and societal well-being. They provide their services even though they take a toll on them. It is often in the form of mental and emotional stress. Sometimes, they are also subjected to physical harm, putting a lot on the line.