By Rena Malai, NEWS Staff
In the aftermath of the global war on terror, officials say the number of enlisted social workers within the military has gone down and the need to rebuild those ranks is greater than ever.
Soldiers experiencing mental health challenges — ranging from posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety and personal problems — can face risks to their overall health, their relationships with family and friends, and their careers if the problems are left untreated.
The stigma associated with seeking mental health services and assistance from professionals, including social workers, is slowly changing as efforts are being made to recruit more military social workers to deal with the effects of more than a decade of war in numerous countries.
“A lot of people in the military struggle with the idea of seeking help,” said NASW Senior Political Action Associate Brian Dautch. “It’s important for both veterans and their families that they seek help.”
Judith Ward Dekle, senior program analyst within the Office of Family Policy for Children/Youth for the Department of Defense, met with NASW staff to discuss ways NASW and DoD can link social workers to the military and provide career direction to recent graduates and newcomers to the field.
Dekle stressed the importance of help being accessible to those living with the challenges of a military lifestyle, even in peace time, and the valuable knowledge and expertise social workers can expect to acquire from working with military members and their families.
According to Anthony Hassan, director of the Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families, the U.S. military has launched a number of initiatives to bolster the social worker ranks within all the services.
“If you believe in an all-volunteer force, then you believe that we need to care for the men and women in uniform,” he said.
Hassan noted that the U.S. Navy is increasing social workers exponentially by offering an opportunity for MSW candidates without their license to enter the Navy and complete a two-year externship.
From the January 2012 NASW News. NASW members click here for the full story.