When the pandemic hit in 2020 the world was faced with traumatic times and anxieties of being locked up in homes. But a study has claimed that the stress and depression was more severe in social workers. According to the study published in the journal International Social Work, concerning rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety among social workers have been uncovered. Stressors related to Covid-19 were the strongest factors associated with negative mental health outcomes.
Those who experienced a higher number of pandemic-related stressors, (such as health concerns, increased caregiving responsibilities, violence in the home, family stress due to confinement, and stress associated with work-life balance) -experienced mental health problems at a higher rate compared with those who were not as impacted by pandemic related hardships.
“Like physicians, nurses and other allied health care providers, social workers are feeling the impact of the pandemic, and it is showing up in their mental health,” says lead author Ramona Alaggia, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (FIFSW) and the Margaret and Wallace McCain Chair in Child and Family. As we celebrate Social Work Week in Ontario March 6 – 12 and National Social Work Month in March, it is important to recognize the stressors that affect social workers and the well-being of those working in this essential field. An alarming 40 per cent of the sample reported depression. This is four times higher than the general population. The rate of reported depression among social workers is also substantially higher than other healthcare professionals working in COVID-19 related conditions, where the prevalence rate of depression has been found to be 24 per cent. In total, one-fifth of the sample reported PTSD while 15 per cent reported anxiety. “With rising rates of domestic violence, child abuse, mental health illnesses and addictions, death rates in long-term care systems, and homelessness, social workers’ jobs have become more demanding than ever.”
says co-author Esme Fuller-Thomson. The majority of survey respondents were from Ontario and married or in common law unions. Half of the respondents had children under the age of 18, and 85 per cent were women, which is consistent with the number of women working in the social work field. Co-author Carolyn O’Connor states that the worst trends have been in the women who have felt the most negative employment change and job loss during Covid-19. “Time studies consistently show that women are usually the ones carrying most childcare and domestic responsibilities at home. Meanwhile, Covidlockdowns made working from home even more stressful as parents’ juggle work demands with home-schooling while experiencing isolation and fewer supports.” The study also found that the social workers most affected by mental health problems tended to be younger, less experienced and less established in their profession. Levels of resilience were also measured. Those who were older and had higher incomes had higher resilience scores. Now after the study there is a need towards a more trauma-informed approach and strong mental health supports for staff of social workers.