Catherine G. Greeno
Mental illnesses are very common; more than one-quarter of people will develop a mental illness during their lifetime. Mental illnesses are associated with substantial disability in work, relationships, and physical health, and have been clearly established as one of the leading causes of disability in the developing, as well as the industrialized world. Mental disorders are common in every service sector important to social workers, and affect outcomes in every service sector. Mental disorders are strongly associated with poverty worldwide, and are common and often unrecognized in the general health sector, child welfare, and criminal justice settings, among others. Basic information about mental health is thus important to all social workers. Information about classification systems and major categories of mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, psychotic disorders, and substance abuse disorders, is presented. The service system for mental disorders is badly underdeveloped, and most people who need treatment do not receive it. There is an increasing body of evidence demonstrating effective treatments, and policy is moving toward requiring that treatments offered be evidence based. This is a period of a great explosion of knowledge about mental health, and we can expect considerable advances in the coming years.
This entry focuses on services for adults with severe mental illness, specifically the five psychosocial interventions considered evidence-based practices. The emergence of psychiatric rehabilitation, the only professional discipline designed to serve a specified population, is described. The primary historical practice approaches, which are the foundation for psychiatric rehabilitation, are discussed. Each of the five evidence-based practices is then described with the empirical supporting evidence. The emphasis on this population and interventions were selected as social workers are the major providers for this population and frequent implementers and developers of these interventions.
Matthew Epperson, Julian Thompson, and Kelli E. Canada
This article discusses the emergence, structure, and purpose of the mental health court. It details the therapeutic aspects of the mental health court and its function as a specialized-treatment court serving persons with serious mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. Guiding themes, such as the criminalization of mental illness, therapeutic jurisprudence, and drug-treatment courts are described. It also identifies key legislation that contributed to the funding and proliferation of mental health courts. The effectiveness of mental health court, along with current criticisms regarding its impact on participants’ mental health and recidivism outcomes, are also covered. Last, social work values and the various roles of social workers in the mental health court are highlighted to demonstrate the relevance of mental health court to contemporary social work practice and intervention.
Continuing a history of inequity, private insurers have placed restrictions and limitations on coverage for mental health conditions making access to treatment services increasingly more challenging. A state-by-state advocacy movement has led to the enactment of various state laws to require mental health parity. With the Clinton Administration’s attempt at health care reform, mental health parity became part of the health reform debate and led to the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996. The inadequacies of this law were partially corrected in the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which included mandated coverage for substance use conditions. The Obama Administration in 2011 included these provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which does not require compliance monitoring nor does it provide a definition for “mental health,” which leaves insurers to define it and hence determine what coverage will actually be available.
Shaun M. Eack
Mental health research is the study of the causes and correlates of mental health and illness, approaches to improve mental well-being, and the delivery of effective mental health services to those in need. Social workers have been leading researchers in each of these areas of inquiry, and this article provides an overview of the broad field of mental health research, with particular emphasis on the contributions of social work. A biopsychosocial review of research on the correlates of mental health and illness is provided, followed by a synthesis of studies examining pharmacological and psychosocial approaches to improving mental health. Research on mental health services is then presented, with a focus on studies seeking to improve access to quality care and reduce service disparities. Key directions for future mental health research include identifying specific causal predictors of mental illness, improving existing treatments, and disseminating advances to the community.
Catherine N. Dulmus and Albert R. Roberts
This entry focuses on serious mental illness among adults, including those having serious and persistent mental illness. Social work's historic and current roles in service delivery are reviewed, its present trends in the field (including the recovery movement, evidence-based practices, comorbidity, and the integration of physical and mental health), as well as the service delivery system and the current needs and challenges it faces, are discussed.
The primary focus of the entry is service utilization. As background, the risks for and prevalence of childhood mental disorders are summarized. Then, the current children's mental health services system is described, including the role of nonspecialty sectors of care and informal support systems. Service use barriers and disparities, pathways to services, and strategies to increase service use are discussed. The conclusion notes other current issues in child mental health, including the need to implement evidence-based treatments.
Lonnie R. Snowden
This entry describes the extent of the mental health problem in the United States, trends in treatment rates, and evidence that public recognition of mental illness and related interventions is increasing both in the United States and internationally. Emphasis is given to the structure of the mental health system's major sectors, to the key roles that social workers play, and to the challenges they face, outlined at the conclusion of several sections, in providing effective and quality care against the complex backdrop of this system.
Laurens G. Van Sluytman
Through the efforts of individuals and groups, America has made significant strides in affording civil rights to a majority of its citizens. It has not, however, eliminated individual, institutional, and structural discrimination, and in fact, some efforts to eliminate inequality for certain members of society have elicited subtly coded forms of discrimination. These subtle forms are referred to as microaggressions. This entry defines microaggressions and explores the existing literature concerning its taxonomy. We discuss the impact of microaggression on individuals and groups (for example, social, cognitive, political, and economic) based on race, and extend this discussion to gender, sexual orientation, class, disability, and religion groups. The article makes use of examples within American history, such as the presidency of Barak Obama, voter ID laws and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Accumulated recommendations on best practices for countering microaggressions on the micro-, mezzo- and macro- level of social work practice are presented.
Jesse J. Harris, Col. USA Ret. and Kyle L. Pehrson, Col. USA Ret.
The history of military social work in the United States is rooted in the civilian professional social work community and is a microcosm of that sector. Military social work has a rich history of providing services to military men and women and their families during periods of peace, conflict, and national crises. They have been involved in humanitarian operations and have participated in multinational peace-keeping operations. Social work in the Army, Navy, and Air Force is tailored to the mission of their particular service. However, joint operations between the services are becoming more frequent. Military social workers adhere to the NASW code of ethics while providing service to an institution with its own unique culture, standards, and values.