Making sense of mental health problems
Making sense of mental health problems

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Making sense of mental health problems

4.1 A social worker’s perspective

Figure 7 Owain from the interactive ‘A Support Net [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ’ which is associated with this OpenLearn course

Social workers tend not to play a key role in psychiatric diagnosis and are likely to start working with service users after they have been assessed by a medical professional (most likely a psychiatrist). However, some social workers are appointed as AMHPs (a role that can also be filled by some mental health nurses, occupational therapists and practitioner psychologists). An AMHP (as they are commonly referred to) takes part in assessments where the likely outcome is detention or compulsory treatment under the conditions laid out by mental health legislation. As highlighted by Dr Sarah Matthews and colleagues, social workers are thought to be well suited to the work of an AMHP, as their professional skills include the assessment of the effect of social factors, skills which are acquired via their social work education, and it is upon this educational foundation that the AMHP training is based (Matthews et al., 2014). Although most AMHPs are social workers, they do not tend to undertake AMHP duties full-time once qualified. Their role as an AMHP is to provide a balance to that of the medical practitioner who is also involved as a ‘responsible clinician’. 

Social workers who are AMHPs (as well as social workers who are not AMHPs) will undertake a range of other professional duties. For example, social workers will work with a range of vulnerable people, many of whom may have mental health problems, but not at the level that would require rather intensive support (e.g. a hospital admission). In carrying out this work they will assess their client’s or service user’s situation and their needs, such that social workers in community mental health teams can be involved in producing a care plan based on an assessment of the service user’s needs (e.g. by conducting a Camberwell Assessment of Need – a type of need assessment).

Activity 9 A social work perspective

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Activity 10 A social worker’s approach

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In the next section you will look again at what could be argued is the dominant mode of assessing mental health problems – psychiatric diagnosis. You will also consider some alternatives to diagnosis.

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