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November 2020

Mental health social work is “so much more than the health silo” – Shadow Mental Health Minister meets Think Ahead community

We were delighted to welcome Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP, Shadow Mental Health Minister, to an online event this week with our current trainees and alumni of the programme.

Part of an ongoing series of events with leading figures in mental health and social work, the interactive session tackled a range of issues mental health social workers deal with every day, including race and discrimination, the stigmatisation of mental health, and suicide – especially amongst men.

Opening the event, Think Ahead CEO Ella Joseph highlighted an extract from Dr Allin-Khan’s maiden speech in the House of Commons as values that would resonate with the mental health workforce:

“My commitment is to be a voice for those who have none, to find hope for those who have lost it, to build strength for those who are weak. Regardless of race, ethnicity and socio-economic status.”

The event took an interview-style format with a Q&A from the virtual floor. Dr Allin-Khan discussed her experiences of race and discrimination as a Polish and Pakistani woman; how seeing loved ones affected by poor mental health had motivated her to become a doctor; and spoke passionately against the stigma that still plagues mental health.

Asking participants what it’s like to be a  mental health social worker, the Shadow Minister was told:

“As a profession we are determined and creative”, that the role is about “making life worth living for everyone”, and that “you need a lot of hats… In a single day you might be a housing support officer, a counsellor, a statutory assessor and a professional friend”.

Reflecting on mental health services, the Shadow Minister highlighted the importance of taking a holistic approach and praised the unique role of a social worker:

“This is about housing, this is about education, this is about jobs. Mental health social work is about so much more than operating in a health silo”.