Thursday, October 6, 2011

Psychoeducation rethought.

Last night at work I had a long chat with the training supervisor about advocacy and want it means to me. I'm young and outgoing, I've had experience working with the media as a musician and know how to navigate the world of press releases, interviews and promotion. These discussions between me and this supervisor only ever happen over the phone and happen once in a while but they're always heavy and profound. She left the conversation with giving me a few words of support, telling me that I am in fact in the right place doing work I believe in but also tried to encourage me to not loose touch with that person I "used" to be. The outgoing musician. She felt there was a deep level of self-care within continuing to play music but that I may also be able to take some of those skills and implement them into my advocacy work, my desire to inform policy that affect Canadian social welfare.

So, I leave work late last night, around midnight and start my morning bright and early around 7am. My day on Wednesdays start with the Diversity, Marginalization and Oppression class. Once again this class has been enlightening and eye opening. However, today in an almost eerie way, the discussion section that has always been a very intimate experience moved towards how we as social workers can become politically influential. The "Occupy Wall Street" movement was discussed but we moved on to the media. It became apparent how many of my fellow students harbour some resentment towards the media. I understand this feeling, as a frequent consumer of "The Daily Show" and listener of both CBC radio every morning and NPR I like to think that I get a healthy dose of balanced media. Also, I believe it's important to be a critical consumer, think about what you're listening to. Ask yourself, am I being preached to or is this just a presentation of the facts and allowing me to make up my own mind about this issue. When you make up your own mind, you may fall on one side of the fence or the other and I think that is an incredible experience. To develop your own eclectic, diverse view of the world based on experiences and developed from being educated.

Which brings me to psychoeducation, traditionally psychoeducation is used as a response to individuals who suffer a variety of illnesses or issues. As a social worker, it's a common experience for clients to tell me "I'm told I have (insert mental health issue here) but I really don't know what the doctors are talking about." A concept that we discussed in class today was getting involved with the media as social workers and being proactive about psychoeducation. Is it possible to deliver psychoeducation and expose issues of mental illness, poverty, etc. through the media? Have social workers inform journalists interested in these issues and giving voice to psychoeducation on a mass media level?

This is a really exciting idea to me. I think the potential of delivering awareness could have a positive impact. I however realize that this is more of a public service announcement and may not be seen as desirable to report on so, in class we look at case examples. I think that is the proverbial key to unlocking this issue, personalize the story, give it a face. A second area where psychoeducation could be valuable here is to display and interpret the empirical data on homelessness, poverty and social welfare. There is a belief here in Canada, as I'm sure there is around the world that funding social programs is a tax on working society. The reality is that research shows increased social programs increases public safety by decreasing crime, empowers individuals on the fringe of society who may not have a means to empower themselves through education and employment. The data shows that this is an investment in human capital and does have substantial returns, a positive economic impact. This may not seem logical, it may not make common sense at surface value for an equation: Increase social welfare funding + increase in social programming = economic profits. That equation just doesn't fit within the realm of common sense but studies show that this is the way to combat these issues with a positive economic outcome in the end.

Everybody wins,

1 comment:

  1. That's interesting that this came up in your class, as we spoke about it as well in ours. We discussed how important and influential social education and awareness is, but that we often narrow it down to a smaller demographic (i.e. friends, families, coworkers, communities, etc). It was exciting to think of delivering a message to a broader audience and utilizing the media to assist in this process.

    I appreciate why the media can be intimidating (especially since they are hardly impervious to biases...they've earned a bit of a bad rep), but I also know that media loves a good juicy story. Perhaps if we can spin the importance of social justice and psychoeducation in an interesting way (such as your mention of economic benefit), it would be something that would get picked up.

    I'm also glad that you have such an insightful supervisor who offers support. As this program is moving forward I've been thinking a lot about who I was, who I am and where I'm headed - which qualities to keep and what kind of characteristics and skills need growth. But I agree that for both self-care and clinical purposes, it's incredibly important to stay true to your core self. Which is a bit of a loaded statement as most of us are still trying to figure that one out. :P