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Social Work in Mental Health

This section of the website draws together publications and resources related to the role of social work in the area of mental health.  This page was initially developed to support a learning and development event for mental health social workers in Lancashire in the spring of 2009.

Page last updated on 7 June 2011.  

1. Reports and Publications

BASW Policy on Social Work in Multidisciplinary Mental Health Teams 2010

This paper was written in order to develop a BASW position on the role of social workers in multi disciplinary mental health teams in England and to make recommendations regarding the structures that are essential to enable social workers to effectively deliver services to people with mental health problems.

The Positive Future of Social Work in Mental Health 2010

This is the first position paper of the National Strategic Network Mental Health.

Social work and social justice: a manifesto for a new engaged practice 2010

Manifesto of the Social Work Action Network.  Not mental health specific, but with relevance to work in this area.

SCIE Research briefing 26: Mental Health and Social Work  2008

Research so far undertaken indicates the importance of maintaining a broad base of professional skills in a range of methods of intervention and support. Generally, the most pressing challenges to social workers will be to respond effectively to the shift in service provision towards self-directed and personalised services, and to develop the skills required for working in integrated teams where there are overlapping responsibilities and expectations.

 The Social Work Contribution to Mental Health Services 2005

The purpose of this discussion paper was to generate a debate with commissioners, employers and social workers in primary, secondary and tertiary mental health and social care services on the contribution that social workers can make to the support and recovery of people of all ages in mental distress, both now and in the future.

Treated as people - an overview of mental health services from a social care perspective 2004

This is a report about what social care and health partnerships in England have achieved in promoting and supporting mental well-being in the past year. It is our last national overview report on mental health services, and draws attention to the critical role which social care plays in making these partnerships effective. But it is published at a time when it is increasingly difficult, and inappropriate to distinguish precisely between the contributions of the different agencies which form these partnerships. Their value lies in the interaction and combination of professional skills which they represent, and their impact - from seeing mental health services as a whole. At the same time, responsibility for delivery, quality and consistency of social care remains clearly with councils with social services responsibilities and many of the messages in this report are primarily for them.

Promoting Social Care Perspectives within Integrated Mental Health Services: SPN Paper 6  2004

The integration of health and social care is common sense. It has the potential to deliver many gains: a simpler life for service users, carers and referrers as they have one organisation to go to; an expert organisation; pooled budgets and streamlined decision making.... With these potential benefits though, come risks. Will social perspectives be lost; will local authorities forget about their responsibilities to promote mental well-being; will relationships with child-care, older persons and learning disability teams in social services be lost? These potential gains and losses are explored in this report.

Social worker: Leading Roles in Mental Health  2004

Social work has a well established commitment to working as part of multidisciplinary teams, but also an inadequately developed professional identity which permits their full membership.  For many years, social workers have been most able to say what they are not, and how they are philosophically different from other professional colleagues, but poorly possessed of the core characteristics of a profession to articulate clearly their distinctive role.   This paper goes some way to developing the arguments for ways in which social workers have a distinctive contribution to make and how this might be better developed and communicated to their professional colleagues.

Modernising the Social Model in Mental Health: SPN Paper 1 2003

This paper considers the current policy environment and explores both threats and opportunities for the social model. It rests on the premise that if we look beyond the field of mental health, notwithstanding a range of tensions and conflicts, current developments in public policy may be the best opportunity we have had in several decades to assert the value of the social model. However, this will not happen by default. If this potential is to be realised there is need for clarity about the nature of ‘the social', new definitions of practice, greater connectedness to the evidence base, renewed attention to the skills and value base of those who provide social interventions and to the measurement of their impact. The continuation of confident and assertive forms of social work is vital to the endeavour, particularly if the profile of the model is to be retained within an increasingly multi-disciplinary service context.

Positive approaches to the integration of health and social care in mental health services  2003

Integration of health and social care in mental health has been a central plank of government policy for a number of years. Most importantly service users have consistently said that they value receiving services from one integrated organisation'. In considering the advantages of integration for twenty first century mental health services this publication claims that if integration is established it will achieve outcomes that place ‘service users and carers at the heart of the service' and ‘Service models which focus on the whole person in the context in which they live'. In other words it is a notion that has the potential to transform the world of mental health for service users. In outlining the elements that are vital if this is to be achieved this publication points to the importance of evidence-based learning to inform the changes required in practice and service development in the mental health field.

Options and dilemmas facing British Mental Health Social Work - Shulamit Ramon  2001

Argues that mental health social workers need to become more confident in their contribution and clearer about their uniqueness in focusing on both the social and the psychological aspects of mental health; more able to articulate their contribution in areas not currently perceived as part of mental health such as domestic violence and community work; able to use elements of work currently carried out by other professions or sectors (for example cognitive behavioural approaches); able to draw on the knowledge and experience of service users and carers; able to critically examine the relationship between care and control in their work; able to create new alliances across the multi-professional range and with users and carers for the purpose of building a revised, viable, psychosocial approach.

2. Organisations and Initiatives

Making research count

Aims to: develop collaborative partnerships between Universities and local authorities, the NHS, and other relevant bodies to establish knowledge based practice ; improve the dissemination and implementation of research and related findings; increase mutual understanding between researchers and practitioners and influence the shape of evidence based practice, through its contribution to the debates about appropriate research methodologies for the field of social care

Social Care Strategic Network for Mental Health 

The Social Care Strategic Network for Mental Health (SCSN) promotes and preserves the unique contributions of social work and social care, whilst working with local colleagues to ensure that integration delivers maximum benefits for service users.

Research in Practice for Adults

Aims to promote the use of evidence-informed practice in the planning and delivery of adult social care services.  Includes the Evidence Base for Integrated Care, developed in partnership with the Integrated Care Network.  Includes evidence clusters on direct payments for those using mental health services and employment for people with long term mental health problems.

Centre for Evidence Based Mental Health

Aims to promote the teaching and practice of evidence-based health care (EBHC) throughout the UK (with special emphasis on evidence-based mental health) and internationally; to develop, evaluate, and disseminate improved methods of using research in practice, and incorporate these in the teaching methods of the CEBMH.

Social Perspectives Network

Aims to share work and information looking at mental health from a social perspective; to support people to put social perspectives into practice; and influence the development of mental health policy from a social perspective. 

UK  Psychological Trauma Society

The main objectives of the UKPTS are to promote the improvement of the dissemination of knowledge of the effects of traumatic events, their consequences for people and communities, effective preventative interventions and treatments of the undesirable consequences of traumatic events; to develop a network of individuals committed to achieving this objective in the United Kingdom; to maintain a close relationship with the European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and to partake in any activity that is related to or can promote these objectives.

Parental Mental Health and Child Welfare Network

A development Network set up to promote joint working between social care and health staff working with parents with mental health problems or their children.   Website includes, documents, policy and practice examples.  Latest publication: Mental health and the family - new developments.

Lancashire Care Library Information Service

Access to books, journal articles and current awareness bulletins.  Powerpoint presentation with details of all services on offer: Download here.

3. Books

Listed in order of publication. Included here are books with a specific focus on social work and mental health.   Many social work books on other topics may give extensive coverage to mental health.

Social Approaches to Mental Distress - Jerry Tew (2011)

Over-reliance on biological models in mental health practice has resulted in growing discontent from practitioners and service users, who know that social factors also have a major impact on people's mental health. Social approaches enable practitioners to promote recovery in ways that move beyond the limitations of biomedical treatments. Championing a range of innovative approaches, this timely book offers a holistic model for understanding and responding to mental distress. It places mental health within its broader social context, encouraging engagement with not just the person experiencing mental distress, but also their family and wider social world.

Social Work and Mental Health - Kate Karban (2011)

Offers a fresh approach to addressing mental health issues across all aspects of social work practice, emphasising the relevance of mental health for all social workers, not just those in specialist mental health settings.   Provides critical engagement with the complexities of contemporary theory, policy and practice in this area, recognising developments in user and carer involvement and interprofessional working. Key chapters focus on issues of inequality and diversity, drawing attention to the social determinants of health and the important contribution of social work in promoting social perspectives in mental health. Practice issues addressed include the mental health of children, young people and families, and older people, as well as a range of mental health conditions.

Social work and mental health - Malcolm Golightley (2011)

This 4th edition provides a thorough grounding in the key issues in mental health. It highlights the key issues in this complex and sensitive area of practice and helps students to understand the latest policy and practice issues. The book looks at various aspects of Mental Health Law including the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the recent amendments to the 1983 Mental Health Act. The author is careful to apply these laws to everyday practice in an accessible and user-friendly way. This new edition includes updates to key policy areas such as Putting People First (2007) and No Voice (2007).

Social Work and Mental Health - Peter Gilbert (2010)
This is a new edition of Peter Gilbert's The Value of Everything: Social Work and its Importance in the Field of Mental Health (RHP, 2003).  This new edition maintains the focus on the values that social work espouses as a profession, and its value in current mental health services. New chapters have been added around social inclusion; personalisation; research; spirituality; the role of the social worker following new mental health legislation in 2005 and 2007; and an overview of policy up to the current time.

Social Work and Mental Health in Scotland: Transforming Social Work Practice - Steve Hothersall, Mike Maas-Lowit and Malcolm Golightley (2010)

Since the inception of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, mental health law, policy, practice and ethos have changed dramatically in Scotland. This book provides a thorough grounding in the key issues in mental health and presents a clear picture of the current Scottish mental health scene.

Mental Health and Social Problems: a social work perspective - Nina Heller and Alex Gitterman (2010)
Mental Health and Social Problems is a textbook for social work students and practitioners. It explores the complicated relationship between mental conditions and societal issues as well as examining risk and protective factors for the prevalence, course, adaptation to and recovery from mental illness.

Reflective Reader: Social Work and Mental Health - John Archambeault (2009)
Social work practice involves working with and supporting people with mental health problems in many settings and across the life span. Growing as a reflective and informed practitioner is central to one s development as a student social worker and as a registered social worker. With a focus on legislation, policy and practice, this book draws on excerpts from seminal writing, journal articles, policy papers, government initiatives, statistics and user perspectives and invites readers to deepen their appreciation and understanding of social work practice in the mental health context.

Understanding social work practice in mental health - Vicki Coppock and Bob Dunn (2009)
This book provides an overview of mental health theory, policy and practice. Exploring the complex moral and ethical dimensions underpinning the field, the book engages with the key issues encountered by practitioners working in the modern mental health system. Using real world scenarios, case studies, and reflective exercises, it asks students to critically examine the world of mental health practice from the perspective of users of mental health services and their carers.

Mental Health Social Work in Context - Nick Gould (2009)
Grounded in the social models of mental health particularly relevant to qualifying social workers, but also familiarising students with social aspects of medical perspectives, this core text helps to prepare students for practice and to develop their knowledge around: promoting the social inclusion of people with mental health problems; the changing context of multidisciplinary mental health services; an integrated evidence base for practice; working with people with mental health problems across the life course.

The integration of mental health social work and the NHS - Daisy Bogg (2008)
The integration of services has been NHS policy for a number of years, but how successfully has it been achieved? This book explores the issues from a social care perspective and examines changes in practice so far, particularly progress towards the overall aim of improving the experience of the service user and achieving seamless services . The clash between medically-driven and socially-driven approaches has long been discussed and the book considers whether these two approaches have now been reconciled, or whether the reality of modern service provision continues to create a range of power struggles and demoralization among the professional groups.

Evidence-based policy and practice in mental health social work - Martin Weber (2008)
Mental health social workers work within multidisciplinary teams, often based in health settings. The variety of services they work within are shaped by mental health policy that is increasingly being influenced by research evidence of what works . This book provides an accessible, yet authoritative, guide to the evidence base that underpins contemporary mental health policy in the UK. It critically engages with the notion of evidence-based practice in mental health social work and provides a guide to becoming an evidence-based practitioner. It also provides an accessible guide to appraising quantitative and qualitative research relevant to mental health social work practice.

Mental Health Social Work - evidence based practice - Colin Pritchard (2006)
Mental health social work can be one of the most rewarding and one of the most frustrating areas of social work practice. Social workers need to have a good knowledge of interventions and their evidence bases, from pharmacology to psychotherapy, but also be able to work sensitively and effectively with both clients and carers in a rapidly changing context.  Based on a series of case studies and research based practice, the book explores key topics including: the multiple factors affecting mental health; the bio-psycho-social model of practice; depression, suicide, schizophrenia and personality disorder; the mental health and child protection interface; residential work; treatment modalities.

Social Perspectives in Mental Health: Developing Social Models to Understand and Work with Mental Distress - Jerry Tew (2004)
Social Perspectives in Mental Health offers new practice frameworks that help to make sense of people's mental distress and recovery in relation to their social experience. This interdisciplinary volume promotes a holistic approach to mental health practice, with an emphasis on recovery and empowerment, and on building on the experiences of service users. The contributors explore the impact of social factors, such as power, abuse, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, on the causes and experiences of mental health problems. It is also considered how concepts such as risk and recovery can be understood from a social perspective.

Mental Health and Social Work - Marion Ulas and Anne Connor (1998)
Examining the theory and practice of work with people with mental health problems, this volume considers the current state of policy and organisation and the changes that have taken place over the last decade in the field. The book charts the move away from separate, specialist services, and the resultant impact on service provision and concerns over dilution of expertise.

    4. Courses

    MSc in Mental Health Social Work with Children and Adults - Institute of Psychiatry

    Many social workers routinely come into contact with both children and adults with mental health problems. This two-year part-time programme enables them to have greater confidence and competence while working with people with mental health problems, benefiting their clients and the agency where they are based as well as enhancing their individual careers.

    5. Blogs

    Fighting Monsters

    Written by an AMHP and social worker in an over 65s community mental health team in England.

    The Masked AMHP

    Written by a social worker and AMHP working in a rural area.