In recognition of Social Workers Month, which is celebrated annually during the month of March, the Department of Social Services hosted a Mental Health Awareness Seminar at the Eric Sam Auditorium on the grounds of the Church of the Ascension recently (Monday, March 22).
Under the theme, ‘Social Workers are essential,’ Assistant Director of Northern Bahamas District Charlamae Fernander noted that it was important to host the event to ensure that those serving within the department are firstly taking care of themselves, in order to effectively and efficiently take care of others they serve in the community.
“March is National Social Workers Month and that is why this month was chosen to host this event. This event, a Mental Health Awareness Seminar, is relatively new for us, especially for the Northern Bahamas. It flows from the realization that we have to strengthen ourselves in order to be of any service to anyone else.
“Over the past year-and-a-half, since Hurricane Dorian, and even in the preparation of Hurricane Dorian we have really been called upon to do even more than we normally do. It has been incredible, the amount of challenges that we have had to face, and it has been unrelenting.
“We do not know when it will end, if it will ever end. And so, rather than dwell on that too much, I think we are shifting our focus to giving social workers, and social work support personnel the strength that they need to do what they are called upon to do.
“We thought that this would be a worthwhile seminar. We have to keep the team strong and in good spirits, physically and mentally well, and stable because we call upon them to do a lot at the drop of a hat. There are many emergencies. You cannot predict what is going to happen next. We cannot control what is happening in the world, but what we can do is to take care of ourselves so that we can face it,” Fernander said.
During the event, guest speakers discussed physical fitness, Alzheimer’s, the COVID-19 vaccine and financial literacy.
“Our guest speakers engaged the staff in activities that brought home to them the importance of the particular topics and why it is important to keep themselves healthy. Alzheimer’s, for instance, I do not know if it is on the rise in our country or perhaps we are just recognizing it more, but it is quite an issue in the world, and right here in The Bahamas.
“It seems that every family we talk with has someone who has the disease and so, we need to understand it. We need to prepare ourselves for looking after someone who has this affliction. Wherever possible, we need to avoid it and so this is a timely topic also,” Fernander added.
Under normal circumstances, a month of activities is usually held in celebration of the staff’s dedicated work and service to the community. This year, however, due to the pandemic, the number of activities were scaled back.
This year’s activities started with a church service.
“We had our church service at the Freeport Seventh Day Adventist Church. It was such a wonderful and uplifting event and was very-well attended by our staff. We had almost 100 percent of our staff’s participation in the event. That went very well. It was followed by a light luncheon.
“Because of what is going on, we cannot host a lot of events during the month, but on April 9 we will have a Fun Day event, something that we rarely get to do. And so, everyone is looking forward to that.
“We are also preparing for National Child Protection Month, which is in April and so, we have a number of things planned that we are responsible for,” she noted.
In conclusion Fernander expressed the following: “A lot of people say to us, ‘I could never do what you do as a social worker.’ Although I understand where that may come from, I want to say that persons who do this work whether they are a social worker, case aide or support person, they are called to this work. And so, they are doing it because they are able to and because they want to.
“I know there are some of us that do very well with it and others struggle, but the fact of the matter is that it is a worthwhile profession, it is a noble profession. It does not come with much in the way of compensation or appreciation, but giving service is a reward unto itself.
“Our international theme this year is, ‘Social workers are essential.’ It is an essential service and I think that we, as a society, need to recognize that fact and arm social workers with what they need to give service to the rest of society. That is exactly what we need to do.”
Chief Welfare Officer Dorothea Gomez, Chairperson of Social Workers Month commented: “We started our celebration on March 16, which was recognized as International Social Workers Day. We are celebrating under the theme, ‘Social Workers are essential.’ I think following the passage of Hurricane Dorian, we can all agree that social workers are indeed essential.
“Following Dorian and now the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been inundated. We ourselves were impacted by Dorian and we still had to come out and serve the general public. Thankfully, we have been good through COVID, because I know that other government agencies and other places had to close down. However, thus far, we have managed to escape that. Thank God, because if we had to close, you can imagine the effect that would have had on this community.”
Gomez continued: “Today, we are putting on a mental wellness seminar. We were hoping to have the community nurses here with us to perform glucose and blood pressure checks, because we are in a high-pressured job. But, with the rollout of the vaccine, that was not possible. We are having a team of mental health experts speak with us today.”
Speakers for the Mental Health Wellness Seminar included – Dr. Frank Bartlett; Fitness Coach, Cordell McNabb; and ALIV Executive, Allison Levarity, among others.