Exploring social workers’ experiences of providing mental healthcare services in hospital-based setting; the case of medical social workers in Mpumalanga Province.
Mashabane, Makhosazane Felicia.
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The discourse of mental illness is construed as an inaudible epidemic throughout with prevalence in most countries of the world; it affects millions of people directly and indirectly. Due to the rising burden of these issues, social workers were added as mental health practitioners, amongst other professionals as enshrined in section 17 of the South African Mental Health Act of 2002. It visibly stipulates that the mental health practitioner should have adequate training. However, evidence suggests that social work training in mental health is inadequate in South Africa. The perceived self-efficacy and ecological theory were used to underpin the study, exploring social workers' experience in providing mental healthcare services in hospital-based settings. The study utilised a qualitative research approach and exploratory design. In-depth interviews were elicited from respondents using a purposive sample of 20 social workers with experience providing community mental health care services for over five years in hospital settings in Mpumalanga province, South Africa. The findings indicate that a vast number of participants were of the feeling that training at the undergraduate level is inconsequential, inadequate and not in-depth for the mental health settings. This is said to make the social workers feel incompetent in the field. Secondly, participants experience is worsened by the dearth of social and professional support from the department, reporting to the medical manager instead of a social work supervisor is indicated to be a challenge for the majority. Lastly, social workers reported that in multi-disciplinary teams they are either overworked or marginalised and this result in a negative overall experience. The recommendations of this study are for tertiary institutions re-evaluate the social work training curriculum because mental health is sacrosanct and fundamental to be incorporated into the mainstream of undergraduate training for students specialising in social work. It is also important that the Department of Health recognises social workers, provide social and professional support through in-service training that can be managed by social work supervisors. Also, it is crucial that professionals in the social work profession should be recognised as essential members of the multidisciplinary teams. It is concluded that social workers have negative experiences in providing effective mental healthcare services in hospital-based care settings.