SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: Appreciating social work

Maureen Wendt

Social Work Appreciation Month is in March and is a time to celebrate the great profession of social work. The theme for Social Work Month 2021, Social Workers are Essential, embodies the heroic contributions of the social work profession and highlights the invaluable contributions social workers make in our society, especially as the nation addresses the coronavirus pandemic.

The social work profession has been dedicated to improving the basic needs of all people, especially the most vulnerable among us, and helping people live their life to their fullest potential. As practitioners, social workers are trained to help people address personal and systemic barriers to optimal living. They are employed to effect positive change with individuals, families, groups and entire communities. Social workers are essential to community well-being.

You will find social workers throughout society, protecting children from abuse and neglect, providing mental health and substance use disorder treatment, assisting active-duty military, veterans and their families, in schools, and in community organizations as well as in local, state and government. Many social work professionals also own private consultation practices.

Social work is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are currently about 700,000 professional social workers in our nation, and that number is expected to rise to more than 800,000 by 2029. Other government sources report there are more clinically trained social workers providing mental health and behavioral health services than any other professional discipline in the nation.

However, the social work profession faces challenges. There is still a shortage of social workers and although social workers play a critical role in our nation's health care and mental health system, they could be better compensated for the work they do, according to a 2019 report.

Social workers are everywhere people need help navigating tough life challenges. They have always been present in times of crisis, helping people overcome issues such as death and grief and helping people and communities recover.

Social workers often are unsung heroes who play an essential role in helping people from all walks of life and backgrounds to live life to the fullest. In recognition of the numerous contributions made by social workers I hope you will join me in celebration and support of the social work profession. And, I give a special shout-out to the Dale's social workers who work daily to help people overcome mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

Maureen A. Wendt is president and CEO of The Dale Association, a non-profit organization that provides senior, mental health, in-home care, caregiver support services and enrichment activities for adults. For more information, call 433-1937 or visit www.daleassociation.com.

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