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Social Workers Are the World’s Most Genuine and Unsung Humanitarians

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On March 1st, 2017, celebrity and grammy award-winning singer, Rihanna received the 2017 Humanitarian of the Year Award from Harvard University. According to the Washington Post, “She has used her wealth, influence and global reach to advocate for access to health care and education and speak for women and girls.”

As I decompressed (with bourbon) in the hours that followed my chaotic and draining workday, I found myself curious about Rihanna’s humanitarian contributions. Each article I read said pretty much the same thing—Rihanna was chosen for this celebrated award because of her involvement with and financial contributions to “a number” of charitable causes. I wondered if some of these charities simply called Rihanna to demand “bitch better have my money”, which is a Rihanna song for the uninitiated.

Rihanna’s benevolent aid includes the development of a Barbados based oncology and nuclear medicine center to treat breast cancer. Rihanna provides monetary support to charities that give children in developing countries access to education. Rihanna also created a scholarship for students from the Caribbean who attend college in the United States.

Certainly Rihanna’s contributions are nothing to sneeze on. Yet the more I read, the more I could not help but feel a bit resentful that our society seems to completely and utterly discount the consistent humanitarian efforts of social workers. I do not mean to disregard Rihanna’s charitable efforts nor do I know the extent of her philanthropic involvement or her motivations for such. Still, it is time that we acknowledge the challenging, tiresome, stressful, important, impactful and authentic work of social work for its humanitarian influence.

Each and every single day, more than half a million of us social workers (and people who function in the professional capacity of a social worker even if their titles differ) diligently go about the cause of promoting human welfare. They do it in schools and hospitals, in homeless shelters and in correctional institutions. They do it in private practice and in child welfare. They do it in refugee camps and during natural disasters. They do it in mental health clinics and community based agencies.

They do it quietly, humbly, and without expectation of acknowledgement. They do it in the early morning hours and long after many others have already gone home to their eager pets, their hungry children, their loving partners. They do it even when their day is done because it never leaves their hearts.

They do it in the face of adversity. They do it when others make it nearly impossible. They do it in situations that threaten their safety and challenge their values. They do it for little compensation and tons of bullshit.

They do it because they are passionate and sympathetic. They do it because they never want to stop learning, growing and practicing. They do it because they believe that at the core of the human condition is a resilient spirit. They do it because they believe people, no matter how old, how sick, how demoralized, can and do get better, get stronger, and find stability.

They freely give their limited supply of sympathy and empathy to hungry mouths, tired souls, needy hearts. They sit uncomfortably in the pain of others. They drown themselves in sorrows that are not theirs. They swim in seas of suffering not meant for them.

They protect. They serve. They stand and walk beside the most vulnerable, oppressed and broken citizens of our world. They speak for those with voices too meek.

They do not do it because they have unlimited resources from which to give. Social workers instead go about the cause of promoting human welfare because they are the world’s most genuine and unsung humanitarians.

Natalie Tuffield is a Denver-based licensed social worker with nearly a decade of experience in community mental health and homeless services. For more from Natalie visit her blog,  "Confessions of a Banshee: Mostly Tragic Tales of Dating, Living & Working in the Mile High City.

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Actor Terry Crews Comes Forward About Being Sexually Assaulted by Hollywood Exec

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Actor Terry Crews takes to Twitter to discuss being sexually assaulted by a Hollywood Executive in the wake of the firing of Harvey Weinstein for sexual assault after years of accusations.

Actor Terry Crews

Did you hear the Expendables star say last year?

How is it the criminal justice system doesn’t seem to be able to touch these folks?

Power and privilege keep a lot of people silent.

He just validated a whole lot of women who deal with this on the regular. It’s not easy to come forward.

There is strength in numbers and knowing you are not alone.

Both men and women are affected by sexual assault and rape culture, and it will take more men becoming advocates as well as coming forward to tell their stories because they have stories too.

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The Y Wants Everyone to Take a #SelfieWithSomeoneNew

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Today, the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) is launching a new social media campaign, #SelfieWithSomeoneNew. Inspired by the Y’s new “Us” national campaign creative, #SelfieWithSomeoneNew is an opportunity to highlight how the Y uniquely brings people together. To help raise awareness for the campaign, the Y will partner with long-time member and supporter, actor Ethan Hawke.

Photo Credit: (YMCA of the USA)

The Y is encouraging people to meet someone new, strike up a conversation and discover what they have in common, then, take a selfie and post it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #SelfieWithSomeoneNew and tag @YMCA.

Whether it’s a new neighbor down the street, a parent at your child’s school or a person you see every day on your commute home, the Y hopes people will take a few extra moments to get to know one another in order to build a stronger, more connected community.

To encourage participation, the Y is partnering with Oscar-nominated actor, Ethan Hawke, a long-time Y member and former Y camper. To help drive momentum, Hawke will be taking a selfie with someone new at his local Y while encouraging others to do the same.

“I am excited to support the Y and help shine a light on the work they do,” said Hawke. “They are so much more than a gym. They create community. I started going to the Y as kid when my parents didn’t know what to do with me all summer. Since then, the Y has been a staple in my life; my refuge when I am an out of work actor, or the place that has taught my children to swim. I hope we can raise awareness about everything the Y does in communities all over the country.”

Because of the Y, people who may not have met otherwise, come together, whether they are kids in an afterschool enrichment program, adults in a cancer survivorship group or families volunteering. These are natural and easy ways for people to find commonality and even unity among perceived differences.

“For more than 160 years, the Y has brought people together – no matter their differences – and helped build stronger, more connected communities,” said Kevin Washington, President and CEO, Y-USA. “#SelfieWithSomeoneNew is a great way to illustrate how we can all take small, but meaningful steps towards unity with something as simple as a photo.”

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Ys engage 22 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change. ymca.net

For more information on how to participate in the Y’s #SelfieWithSomeoneNew campaign and to learn more about the Y’s “For a better us.” campaign, visit ymca.net/forabetterus.

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Have You Heard the “Suicide Prevention Anthem 1-800-273-8255”

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MTV – VMAs

National Suicide Prevention Month begins on September 1st, and MTV officially kicked off the awareness month with a performance of “1-800-273-8255” by Logic along with Khalid and Alessia Cara at the VMAs. The song’s title just happens to be the number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, and the performance also included a group of suicide attempt survivors who came on stage wearing shirts with the number to the suicide helpline.

The song begins from the perspective of someone who wants to die and feels there is no one there to care about what happens to them. The opening hook for the song states, “I don’t want to be alive, I just want to die today, I just want to die.” Some may take an issue with the beginning of the song, but it can not be understated the importance of identifying those feelings in order to seek help.

A recent study which included 32 children’s hospital across the United States revealed an alarming increase in self-harm and suicidality in children and teens ranges from ages 5 to 17 over the past decade. Also, the School of Social Work and Social Care at the University of Birmingham released a recent study stating, “Children and young people under-25 who become victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to enact self-harm and attempt suicide than non-victims.”

The second hook starts with “I want you to be alive, You don’t gotta die today, You don’t gotta die.” The song moves from a place of darkness to a place of support. When someone expresses suicidal thoughts, it is critical to not dismiss their feelings or minimize the weight of the issues preventing them from wanting to live. The Center for Disease control list death by suicide as the number 1 cause of death in the 15-19 age group. According to the National Data on Campus Suicides, “1 in 12 college students have written down a suicide plan as a result of stresses related to school, work, relationships, social life, and still developing as a young adult.”

John Draper, Director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, in an interview talked about the impact the song is already having. Draper said: “The impact has been pretty extraordinary. On the day the song was released, we had the second-highest call volume in the history of our service. Overall, calls to the hotline are up roughly 33% from this time last year.” via CNN

“I finally want to be alive, I don’t want to die today, I don’t want to die” are the lyrics and the tone in which the songs end. Then, it leads into an incredibly woke statement by Logic, and here is a sample:

“I am here to fight for your equality because I believe that we are all born equal, but we are not treated equally at that is why we must fight!” – Logic VMAs

The trend for suicide deaths is on an upward climb. A 2015 study by the Center for Disease Control state there were twice as many suicides than homicides in the United States. It’s time we end the stigma and myths surrounding suicide attempt survivors “doing it for the attention.” Suicidal thoughts may be an ongoing struggle instead of a one-off event to prevent. In this case, we need to arm loved ones and at risk individuals with information as well as tools and resource to manage their mental health status.

Suicide Warning Signs

Another useful resource is the Crisis Text Line in which users can send a text to a trained counselor and typically receive a response within 5 minutes. Texters can begin by texting “START to 741741” to get connected.

Mental Health providers and practitioners are always looking for ways to connect and reach those most at risk for suicidal and self-harming behaviors, and pop culture often has a direct connection to those who are the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, a recent study identified a link between 13 Reasons Why and suicidal thoughts in which it found “queries about suicide and how to commit suicide spiked in the show’s wake.”

However, unlike Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why“, this song is already showing that it will have the opposite effect by increasing queries and online searches about the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. If you have not seen this powerful VMA performance, I urge you to check it out.

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