Mental Health Stipend Application

1) What led to your interest in becoming a social worker in the field of public mental health?

I believe that public mental health is the most appropriate area to apply the recovery model of social work to help clients one individual at a time and to then move further to help influence social change both within the system and with the help of empowered survivors of a system that works.  I have always been interested in the mental health field and have my B.A. in Psychology, so my studies have led to the conclusion that recovery is possible for vulnerable populations when members of the population can come together to support one another to do what many in fields outside social work consider impossible.  Even before I began formal studies, I saw the effect of positive community involvement and the importance of public awareness to mental health and the role that a secure base and supportive relationships can have on an individual.  For this reason, public mental health is the ideal area of practice for myself.  As mentioned before, before formal studies were undertaken, I learned how important community service was.  In my home country of Nicaragua, my Grandmother taught me that the only way someone can have a fulfilling life is to help others improve and succeed. My Grandmother constantly visited terminally ill patients in hospitals, providing solace and support, and she organized fundraisers to collect money for the poor. However, the most important lesson that I learned from her was that providing food or money was not necessarily the best way to solve people’s entrenched problems. Social justice and change were also needed throughout the world in order to and meet the fundamental requirements of existence.  Through both family and my field of Psychology as an undergraduate, the choice to go onto the MSW program was quite easy.  Public mental health, also has its obvious appeal to me for reasons cited previously and the potential for research and publication on the subject.  Only through this type of research coupled with positive stories of recovery can true and needed social change occur.

2) Describe in what ways you are similar to clients with whom you might work in the public mental health field. How are you different?

For the last year, I have been in a two-year MSW program with a concentration on Older Adults and Families, therefore I anticipate working with adults that are older than myself and wiser in terms of their life experiences.  However, I feel that with my minority status that I can relate to these older individuals in the sense that this population is very many times overlooked in their needs and that their contribution to understanding social inclusion is sometimes unnoticed.  This is similar to many minorities, who must struggle with basic needs as immigrants and with inclusion due to stigma and issues with difference.  When I first arrived in the United States, I was puzzled to see that people worked very hard and never seemed to have enough money to meet their basic needs. Some of my friends had to drop out of high school just to help support their mothers, fathers and siblings. Even after we graduated from high school, I saw how some friends who were extremely intelligent could not attend college, simply because they were not legal residents. These two issues – poverty and immigration – made a tremendous impression on my consciousness and fueled my desire to achieve social justice on a larger scale.  I believe that helping empower older adults to cope with stress, loss, and other issues related to their status will allow me to see this justice to fruition.  The only difference I would state, would be the obvious, and that is simply my younger age.

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3) How does the recovery model of mental health practice fit with your interest in working with individuals who have a mental illness?

I vigorously believe that labeling individuals seriously restricts his or her ability to achieve empowerment and to positively change their lives.  The recovery models allows less restrictive language and more responsive and rehabilitative measures to assist individuals in his or her choice of a meaningful life.  These individuals may, also serve as role models to others, which helps replace the already over-burdened health care system, and makes sense in its simplicity and its effectiveness.  The community setting and feedback that can be provided by others to a person in distress cannot be equaled in a rigid, institutional setting.  Recovery can be witnessed in the success of others and serve as a constant reminder to an individual that may doubt that he or she will ever be disintegrated from the mental health system. Integrating back into society is essentially easier and more supported, as well.  There are a plethora of reasons for one to believe in and adhere to this model and these are but a few of many.  On a personal level, I believe that it is extremely important to always treat people with respect no matter who they are, and regardless of their individual circumstances. I also believe that in order to enhance people’s lives, social justice and social change need to occur so that everyone is more or less on an equal playing field. This can be accomplished by empowering people and also through educational opportunities. Furthermore, I believe that clients deserve first-rate assistance from me, including providing all the help, resources, and benefits that they may need in order to achieve their maximum potential

4.)Describe your personal strengths and limitations that you might bring to the field of mental health

I believe that my personal experience and educational work serve as my greatest strengths.  I have learned that both theory and practice are important and that the recovery model in conjunction with my compassion and patience will be beneficial to all the clients that I encounter.  My Grandmother was very fundamental to my understanding of the importance of giving without expectations or frustrations over obstacles that are not in my control.  I am very optimistic, but do understand that burnout and frustration can and does occur in individuals that enter helping professions and do not always see the results that they would like to see.  I have learned that each and every small success is an important step and the recovery model does emphasize the importance of small steps to empowerment.  I would be pleased with these small successes and not expect rapid change or immediate gratification from my role as a helper.  I would sincerely appreciate my part in helping individuals in the best capacity that I possibly can.  I do owe this to my understanding of the field and from my life experiences.  I also think my personal strengths are relevant to my development as a professional social worker, including compassion, empathy and desire to work with oppressed populations. Moreover, I am flexible, patient, a team player and bilingual in English and Spanish. I am also extremely dedicated to working with social justice issues, such as poverty and immigration. Some of the limitations that I have in relation to my development as a professional social worker are my sensitivity to others, and my lack of direct professional experience.  However, I have worked in social-work related activities and am very committed to my future in this challenging profession.

5) How might your “strengths and limitations” impact your work as a public mental health social worker?

I believe that my strengths greatly outweigh my weaknesses and that my strengths of character and compassions will shine through to both clients and supervisors.  I do believe that it is true that an overly sensitive helping professional can be dissuaded from their ultimate best in the field when they are impacted so greatly by offenses done to others and in society in general.  I believe, though, that this quality of being sensitive to the plight of others can be positively transformed to help me further social equality through reform and research.  I think that I can be on the forefront of positive changes in the recovery model community and use all these experiences to educate and empower others, including other helping professionals, as well.  I believe that even a helper must ask for help at times and that personal pride must not get in the way of ameliorating problems that can only be explained by seasoned helping professionals.  Luckily I have had much guidance in this in the past and can help learn from others and, in turn, teach others what has been taught to me.  I have been personally inspired by a particular social worker who helped me feel more empowered in continuing my education. Since Spring 2005, I have been part of a mentoring program called “Partners for Success,” which provides mentors for first-generation college students. My mentor, Dr. Cheryl Lee, has helped me tremendously by providing support and information with many problems that have arisen due to being a full-time student and also working full-time. She has also impacted my life by teaching me time management techniques, and shared helpful tips for relieving day-to-day stress. Since she knows that I am committed to a career in social work, she has also let me know about her experiences as a social worker and a professor. She has also helped me by providing an opportunity to work with her as a research assistant. My interactions with her have helped me clarify my professional focus and enhanced my interpersonal skill sets on every level.  I will continue to improve my skill set to be the best I can be.



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