March is National Social Work Month. Social workers are essential members of the communities we live and work in. They have the unique job of effecting positive change with individuals, families, and entire communities, many of which are groups who are the most vulnerable in our society.

Many social workers do direct, clinical work with people as therapists and advocates. They help individuals with mental health disorders, work as a bridge to resources and services in the community, and many other things. Many social workers also engage in more macro work to establish policies and laws that give more people access to services and benefits in their communities.

There are over 700,000 professional social workers employed in the United States. We have 6 social workers on our team at Mightier who support our families, our research, and our partnerships to help Mightier become more effective and accessible to children and their families.

We asked some of our social workers on staff to talk about their experience in the social work field and wanted to share some of them with you all. For more information about National Social Work Month and how to support social workers in your community visit the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

 

Suzanne Wintner, LICSW, MPH, PhD, Senior Scientist

What is one word you would use to describe social work?

Essential

What has been your favorite moment as a social worker?

Connecting with people

What is the hardest part of being a social worker?

Knowing how much injustice and inequity there is in the world

How do you take care of your own mental health while being on the front lines of a mental health epidemic?

Deep breaths

What is one thing you wish people understood about social work?

Theories of person-in-environment & strengths-based perspectives

What do you think most people could benefit from in their own mental health journeys?

Self-acceptance

Kimberly Siefkes, MSW, LISW, Senior Program Specialist

What is one word you would use to describe social work?

Service

What has been your favorite moment as a social worker?

I love the moment when you see a client begin to recognize their own strengths and abilities and believe in themselves more.

What is the hardest part of being a social worker?

There are many hard parts of social work because we are often walking alongside people during some of their hardest moments of pain and suffering.  I find one of the hardest parts to be dealing with systems that are unjust and/or uninformed that make life harder for people.  For example, while mental health in particular, is talked about so much more these days, there are still so many formal and informal systems that are not sensitive or understanding to how important and complex our mental health is. We have much more work to do to change these systems and to educate people.

How do you take care of your own mental health while being on the front lines of a mental health epidemic?

I believe strongly in the mind-body connection, whether that is in relation to overall wellness or trauma, pain, depression, anxiety, etc. There is scientific evidence for how our emotional experiences imprint in the brain and body and how we can find health and healing through body-based interventions. I apply this belief to my own self-care by prioritizing movement- yoga, running, walking, hiking

What is one thing you wish people understood about social work?


I wish people understood how broad the social work profession is. Social workers play essential roles in all aspects of our society.  From therapy offices to hospitals and first responder teams. From government to corporations and international relations. Licensed social workers are highly trained and engage in ongoing professional education and it is wonderful to know that my colleagues are bringing those skills and their voices to so many areas of need.

What do you think most people could benefit from in their own mental health journeys?

I think that as we all journey to build greater awareness of our emotions and how to care for ourselves emotionally, we are able to approach ourselves with greater compassion. People can be their own worst critics and self-compassion is such a protective factor as we go through life’s inevitable ups and downs

Natalie Portis, MSW, LSW, Senior Program Specialist

What is one word you would use to describe social work?

Superheroes!

What has been your favorite moment as a social worker?

It is inspiring to witness a client harness their inner strength and resolve after facing tremendous adversity.

What is the hardest part of being a social worker?

There is a sense of powerlessness when clients often encounter limited or inaccessible resources.

How do you take care of your own mental health while being on the front lines of a mental health epidemic?

Listening to music, podcasts, cooking and going on walks outside have been very comforting during this season.

What is one thing you wish people understood about social work?

The variety of settings where social workers can add value are limitless.

What do you think most people could benefit from in their own mental health journeys?

I think that most people can benefit from being intentional in their patience and forgiveness of self on their mental health journey.


Emily Stone, MSW, LICSW, Senior Clinical Strategist

What is one word you would use to describe social work?

Change-makers

What has been your favorite moment as a social worker?

Being the person that a kid or teen can trust.

What is the hardest part of being a social worker?

Understanding and accepting that you can’t make everything ‘better’ or solve every problem.

How do you take care of your own mental health while being on the front lines of a mental health epidemic?

Talking to others about how I feel, cooking, good music, and lots of walks

What is one thing you wish people understood about social work?

Social workers can work anywhere and support almost anyone when they need it most.

What do you think most people could benefit from in their own mental health journeys?

It is always okay to ask for help. It does not mean that you are weak. It means that you know yourself and what you need.

Jessica Ragnio, MSW, LICSW, Associate Clinical Director

What is one word you would use to describe social work?

Rewarding.

What has been your favorite moment as a social worker?

I love helping people recognize their own strengths. I love when people feel proud of themselves.

What is the hardest part of being a social worker?

Explaining what I actually do.

How do you take care of your own mental health while being on the front lines of a mental health epidemic?

This one is hard. Walks, cooking, trying to keep perspective.

What is one thing you wish people understood about social work?

Social work is a giant umbrella of types of jobs, roles, settings you might work in.

What do you think most people could benefit from in their own mental health journeys?

Patience with themselves.


Debra Mueller, MSW, LCSW, Operations & Systems Manager

What is one word you would use to describe social work?

Empowerment

What has been your favorite moment as a social worker?

Every time a client realizes they inherently have the ability and capability to solve whatever issue comes their way.

What is the hardest part of being a social worker?

Being empathetic to all people and parts within systems and trying to find solutions that are fair and beneficial to all

How do you take care of your own mental health while being on the front lines of a mental health epidemic?

Not as well as I should! It can be easy to forget to care for yourself when you’re thinking about others. Sleep, healthy food (and treats of not-so-healthy food in moderation), and time for myself help me focus on my well-being. Having awesome people that I can talk to is vital as well!

What is one thing you wish people understood about social work?

Social work is a regulated profession with high ethical standards grounded in helping people while promoting self-determination.

What do you think most people could benefit from in their own mental health journeys?

Ignore the narrative that we should be able to do everything and do it on our own. Setting boundaries and being open to receiving help are signs of strength.