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Mental Health and Disability - Essay Example

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In the early years of the 20th century, social work's practice boundaries expanded to include direct work with people with the most serious mental illnesses through the function of aftercare. Using complementary and mutually reinforcing efforts to promote social reform in the care of people with mental illness and then to provide that care directly, the young social work profession established its presence in the emerging public mental health field and significantly broadened prevailing standards of acceptable care.
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Mental Health and Disability
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Download file to see previous pages Social work practice with those who were labeled "insane" in the parlance of the early 20th century (individuals found to meet the legal definition of "insanity" at a "lunacy" court hearing and committed to institutions), arose from a socially progressive reform effort known as the aftercare movement. As the earliest form of "psychiatric" social work practice, aftercare functions became the vehicle for linking the emerging methods and tasks of social work with the existing structures of psychiatric care. That link proved to be an important one for widening the perspective on what constituted adequate care for people with the most serious mental illnesses, as well as for the definition and development of social work's professional turf.
The rise of social work in public mental health through aftercare of people with serious mental illnesses illustrates the important reality that strengthening a profession takes place by creating turf, not just defending it (Barnes and Mercer, 2006, 45-8). This perspective thrives in unstable and shifting circumstances when prevailing definitions and boundaries are in flux. It is a useful perspective for the social work profession to confront the upheaval and uncertainty currently experienced in human services (Campbell, 2000, 95).
From the 1906 establishment of an aftercare committee with a single social work-trained aftercare agent at New York's Manhattan State Hospital to 1930 when U.S. census data reported social workers employed in state mental hospitals in half of the states in the country, social work became identified with the function of aftercare. The processes that established this identification illustrate critical connections between social activism for an "idea" and the creation of professional "place." Such connections are important sources of professional legitimization through establishing what sociologist Andrew Abbott (1988) referred to as "jurisdictional claims" or assertions of specific links between a profession and its work (Barnes and Mercer, 2006, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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