Looking at Social Work from Two Very Different Perspectives
2007 National Social Work Week Short Article Contest
Andrea F. J. Betts
ANDREA F. J. BETTS
The following are two articles that tied for “first place” in response to OASW’s 2007 Social Work Week Short Article Contest. Contributors were asked to highlight and illustrate, with a case example, the theme: "Social Workers: Making a Difference in the Lives of Children and Families".
As my daughter’s behaviours escalated, I felt frustrated by my inability to help. Even with the educational training of a school of social work behind me, being a recipient of social work services is a different education in and of itself. Today I am both a social worker and a client of social work services. It was the profession of social work that helped my family to navigate our daughter’s mental illness and subsequent treatment. It has been social workers who were our guides, our advocates, our educators, and our shoulder to lean on.
Frustration, hallucinations, crying, insomnia, dependence, isolation. These are words that aptly describe my six-year-old daughter who has a bi-polar disorder. For my child, Molly, the journey to assistance has been bumpier than the one faced by most adults with a mental illness. She is in the 0.1 per cent of the population who is diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in childhood. There is little in the way of supports and resources specifically designed for her diagnosis. Relatively few individuals are aware that children can even suffer from a bi-polar disorder.
I would like to tell people that before Molly was even born, she was a strong-willed individual. Ultrasounds demonstrated her natural tendency to be uncooperative. As an infant, Molly slept little, cried frequently, and always needed to be one step ahead. I do not believe that she ever crawled; she just stood up and ran.
As she grew into a frustrated toddler, her problematic behaviours increased. My family thought that I was simply having trouble as a new mom. Finally, the day came when, with my infant son on my hip and my daughter screaming on the floor, I decided to swallow my pride and call for help. I felt like I had failed as a mother and as a social worker.
When I called, the social worker at the other end of the phone listened and spoke with compassion. It was this conversation that reassured me that I was doing what was right. My daughter’s crying, anger, hallucinations, frustrations, and general state of being overwhelmed by straightforward tasks were not my fault. This social worker conducted research, provided resources, and assisted me in my new role of mental health advocate.
Since that day, social workers are continuing to assist our family. Through Molly’s social worker’s intervention and insight, I have sought professional assistance and had by daughter identified with a bi-polar diagnosis. When attempting to steer my way through the sometimes cold world of psychiatry, having a social worker on my side has meant the difference between emotional life and death.
By no means has my family found stability. I am certain, however, that if it were not for Molly’s social worker and, now my own, we would not be a functional unit. Social work and social workers have been literally the lifeline that I needed, both personally and professionally.
Andrea F. J. Betts, BSW, RSW, M.Ed, is a social worker with Community Living, St. Catharines, and a lecturer for Brock University.