Social Work for Social Good: Celebrating National Social Work Month

By Natalie Jensen with support from Sean Maloney and Meghan McNabb

March is National Social Work Month, where we honor the many contributions of the professionals, students, and organizations in the field of social work.

This year’s acknowledgment is particularly significant as our country faces continued economic, political, and societal uncertainty and an increased need for mental health support. At its core, social work holds the values of service, social justice, dignity, human relationships, integrity and competence.

Social workers are everywhere

When you hear the phrase, “social worker,” what comes to mind? Often we think of them only in certain settings, such as a hospital or government entity. But the truth is, you, a family member, friend, or colleague have probably been helped by a social worker in many different contexts.

Every day, the almost 720,000 social workers in this country touch millions of lives. You’ll find social workers practically everywhere, working in schools, businesses, research, and program evaluation. Professionals in social work also practice law, represent constituents in politics, advocate for and create policy, and advise on domestic and international relations.

Within your own community, social workers are serving in medical interdisciplinary teams, palliative and hospice care, community mental health and enrichment programs. They also work closely with communities that experience marginalization and oppression such as LGBTQIA+, people of color, the differently abled, persons experiencing trauma, homelessness, incarceration, addiction and abuse, and aging individuals. 

Working for social good from the beginning

Originally established to help immigrants and other vulnerable people gain the necessary tools and skills to move out of poverty, the field of social work has been around for more than a century. From the beginning, and continuing today, social workers can be credited with many of the programs and ways of life we take for granted. 

social worker with elderly womanSocial workers were instrumental in the creation of our country’s social safety net, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and disability pay, and were staunch advocates for equal treatment, humane treatment for individuals struggling with mental health challenges, and the prevention of child abuse and neglect. The policies and programs that social workers have designed and contributed to have always sought to give all people the skills and tools to cope and overcome barriers to living a successful life.

Social work and counseling: longtime partners

Here at Sunstone, we’re particularly grateful for the inroads social workers have made in the mental health field. From its inception, social work has been deeply concerned with the treatment of individuals struggling with mental health illness. Social workers have always shone a spotlight on society’s challenges and worked with the government, advocates, and activists to affect positive change.

Only a decade after the first social work class was offered at Columbia University in 1898, sweeping mental health reform led to the creation of the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, which advocated for mental health awareness and brought significant attention to the study of mental and behavioral challenges.

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

– Ida B. Wells

Thanks to social workers, the stigma of mental health illness has lessened over the years, and there is open and honest dialogue around mental health, opening the door for the field of mental health treatment. The fields of social work and therapy are inextricably linked, and we wouldn’t be able to serve our community without the dedication and innovation of social workers. 

Find ways to celebrate social workers

No matter what sphere they’re working in, social workers will continue to create, innovate, advocate, and get in “good trouble.” This March, take the time to acknowledge, honor, and celebrate the ways in which social workers have changed our society for the better. The National Association for Social Workers has numerous resources available to help you celebrate our country’s social workers.