BBC Radio 4 programme All in the Mind has spent a day following Think Ahead participant Al Tooms – giving a rare insight into the complex role of a mental health social worker.
You can hear the whole programme on the BBC website. Or you can listen to Al’s section here.
During the piece, Al meets with two service users who he has been working with for a while. The first meeting, with Jo, takes place at her house and Al and Jo discuss how far Jo has come in her recovery and strategies to help her to stay well. The second meeting, with Alex, takes place in a social work centre, and they discuss how Alex has been feeling over the past week, and how he feels about taking his medication.
After the meetings, All in the Mind presenter Claudia Hammond reflects on Al’s approach: “It sounds like you’re almost side by side with them.”
Al explains: “That’s how I see myself as a social worker, and that’s so crucial to the role, to see yourself like that […] If you’re not alongside with someone, how do you expect them to engage with you or talk about mental health.
“Particularly for the people that I’ve been working with, their lives are so complicated and their mental health fluctuates depending on what’s happened throughout the day or what they’ve been through or what happened last weekend. It’s really good to be in a position where I can talk about everything with them and navigate all areas of their life as opposed to just focusing on their mental health.”
All in the Mind first met Al in December 2016 when he was only a few months into his training, when he talked about what the first few days of the job had been like – describing it as a little bit daunting and very busy, but explaining that members of the team were always happy to help. In this new piece, Al reflects: “People ask each other and they involve us as students and they’re so eager to hear about our experiences and our take on things […] Everybody is busy, but it’s a collaborative busy-ness.”
All in the Mind also spent a day in May following Think Ahead participant Charlotte Seymour on the programme as she met two service users. Listen to Charlotte’s piece here.