Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Laurel Bidwell


Social Work


The mental health social worker experiences unique challenges on a daily basis. A social worker’s well-being affects not only the social worker at the individual level; but also directly affects agency and client outcomes, which in turn impacts the mental health system. Adequate support is crucial in maintaining social workers’ positive well-being (Graham & Shier, 2014).

Current rates of burnout among mental health professionals range from 21-61% (Morse, Salyers, Rollins, Monroe- DeVita & Pfahler, 2012). This suggests that there are gaps in adequate support for mental health social workers. A blend of systems theory, the strengths perspective and an empowerment model was used as the foundation from which to explore the individual, agency and community impacts of social worker well-being and adequate support.

Semi-structured qualitative interviews were used to explore the following questions: 1. What is the impact of working within the mental health field on social worker well-being?, 2. What types of supports do mental health social workers find to be the most helpful? and 3. What gaps do mental health social workers feel exist in level and type of support that they receive in their work? Seven interviews were conducted. A grounded theory approach was used to analyze the data to identify major emerging themes.

The findings suggest society’s dominant cultural values and attitudes stigmatize mental health care, which results in an inadequate mental health system. The stress associated with working within an ineffective system, as well as, lacking effective responses to self-care leads to both physical and mental impacts on personal well-being. Although mental health social workers have developed effective coping skills to positively maintain their well being, participants suggested the adoption of a systemic response to self-care and social change to influence mental health policy as primary ways of improving support for mental health social workers.

Included in

Social Work Commons