Advocacy in Action

Through the stories we share, the Admissions Team at Baylor University hopes to inspire and educate future leaders in social work.

The Impact of Social Workers on Mental Health

Written by Kino Hickey on 02.14.19

Did you know that 57.8 million adults experience some form of mental illness in a given year?  U.S. adults experience some form of mental illness in a given year? This represents 1 in 5 adults.

For many years mental illness has been associated with shame or humiliation. The reality is that many still do not understand the depth of the disorder for those who suffer from mental illness. According to World Psychiatry, people dealing with mental illness are challenged with two different stigmas — the stigma of how society understands mental illness and how the individual themselves deals with living with a mental illness.

There’s A Growing Need for Qualified Mental Health Professionals

Education is the best way to create awareness about mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) understands that stigma can create humiliation and cause individuals to shut down or shut out any type of help or treatment for a mental illness. Their CureStigma Campaign recognizes that “the perception of mental illness won’t change unless we act to change it.”

Social workers are in a unique position to offer hope and healing to those suffering from mental illness, and the need for experienced and competent mental health social workers continues to increase.

Social workers make up the largest professional group of trained mental health providers in the United States today. Add: 85% of mental health professionals in the U.S. are licensed social workers. There are many roles within the social work and mental health profession, such as practice, policy, and research. Each of these roles offers the opportunity to help lead the change and dispel the stigma associated with mental illness across the country and the world.

Career Opportunities for Mental Health Social Workers

Mental illness is not isolated to only one population or group. The need for mental health professionals extends to almost every area of society. Mental health social workers can be found within schools, hospitals, mental health facilities, community health centers, and government agencies to name a few.

One organization in particular, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is the largest employer of master’s level social workers in the United States. Social workers have worked in the VA system since 1926 and provide assistance to service members, veterans, and their families. Here are a few job opportunities as social workers within mental health:

  • Inpatient Psych Social Worker

  • Healthcare for the Homeless Veteran Outreach Program Social Worker

  • Substance Abuse Worker

  • Community Support/Mental Health Intensive Care Management

The Value of an MSW and the Difference It Makes in Mental Health Practice

The skills and knowledge obtained through a Master of Social Work degree (MSW) provide an opportunity to adequately and effectively serve those in the world’s most vulnerable populations. An MSW equips individuals with advanced clinical techniques and provides them with the skills needed to make a difference in the arena of mental health.

As a current MSW student at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, I have chosen to specialize in physical and mental health. With my education, I plan to advocate for those who need help and educate all those I encounter on the importance of understanding mental illness and seeking treatment, specifically within the veteran population. Upon graduation, I plan on obtaining my LMSW (Licensed Master of Social Work) and eventually my LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker). With these licenses, I can dive into the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of those who suffer from mental illness.

Work Toward Healing as a Social Worker in Mental Health At Baylor University

The Master of Social Work degree program offers three specializations and several areas of concentration. One of the areas of specialization is clinical practice, with a focus on physical and mental health. This specialization prepares students for advanced social work practice in health care settings working with interdisciplinary teams.

Throughout their time in the MSW program, students will apply evidence-based practice models in advanced case management and in mental health treatment with focus on the ethical integration of faith and social work practice and health. Graduates will be prepared for direct practice, as well as health care administration and planning roles. Explore 4 things to consider when picking an MSW program.

The stigma surrounding mental health can end — and our nation's vulnerable populations can be helped when passionate and educated mental health professionals step forward and work toward healing mental illness. 

If you want to learn more about how an MSW degree can equip you to become a mental health social worker, check out our digital resourceMaster of Social Work — The MBA of the Helping Professions. 


Posted by Kino Hickey

Kino is a a 2019 MSW graduate who currently works for the US Department of Veteran Affairs as a "Healthcare for Homeless Veteran Social Worker". Kino was first drawn to Baylor when he heard Dr. Harris speak at an NASW Conference in 2016. Once he attended a Preview Day, he knew Baylor was the only place for him. Kino spent 10 years in the United States Military. He is passionate about working with veterans who are challenged with mental health and substance abuse issues.