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Being kind to yourself is not to be underestimated

Mental Health Awareness Week takes place 18 to 24 May. As part of this, we asked Laura, a social worker, approved mental health professional and professional advisor at Social Work England, a few questions.

Being kind to yourself is not to be underestimated

5/22/2020 1:00:00 PM

What is your role at Social Work England?

I am a professional advisor. I sit on the decision making group to reach decisions at the triage stage of Social Work England’s fitness to practise process. As a registered social worker, my role is to give advice, support and information about social work practice to colleagues to aid their decision making.

Why did you want to be an approved mental health professional (AMHP)?

As a social worker working with individuals with learning disabilities and mental health illness, I often supported people leaving hospital where they were staying under the Mental Health Act 1983. I found the role to be very challenging and rewarding, and further developed my interest and passion for working with people who were experiencing mental health issues.

I wanted to develop my knowledge of the issues faced by people coming into the mental health system as well as being able to support them back into the community. I believe in people being the expert in terms of their own mental health. I feel that the AMHP role is about supporting people to work through their issues in the way they think is best, in the least restrictive way as possible.

What’s the best part of the job?

As a social worker, I don’t think it gets any better than being able to support people to reach their own goals and realise their potential. Being a social worker for me is about working with people to enable them to have a place in society that they set and identify for themselves. I love working with people and no two days are ever the same – it’s the hardest as well as the best part of the job.

What’s the most challenging part of the job?

I find it difficult at times to accept when people don’t want to engage with me or other professionals and services. I want to work with people to improve their situations so walking away when I don’t think I have achieved that is hard. I have to remind myself that people can choose the life they want to live, even if this is not the life I, other professionals or family members would choose.

What impact has the pandemic had on the people you support and how you support them?

Like everyone who is experiencing this pandemic, life has been uncertain and unpredictable. The changes to daily routine have been hard. If you are also experiencing mental health issues, these changes can be even harder.

People I work with are now more isolated than before and are not able to access the same level of support they were from services and the community. Being in lockdown away from friends and family when you are experiencing mental health issues is not just hard, but can exasperate the problems further. The opportunity to intervene as a preventative strategy is compromised as a result of the lockdown.

However, what I have seen is the amazing resilience of people coping and managing as best they can, however they can, and that has been inspiring to see.

In your opinion what’s the one thing everyone can do to look after their mental health?

Being kind to yourself is not to be underestimated. Take time to stop and slow down. If you can, take the time to appreciate nature, I would recommend gardening, to grow something is to invest in the future – even if it is just a house plant!