An Exploratory Survey of Mental Health Social Work in Europe

Stone, Kevin; McCusker, Pearse; Davidson, Gavin and Vicary, Sarah (2021). An Exploratory Survey of Mental Health Social Work in Europe. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(19), article no. 10462.



This article reports on an exploratory study comparing mental health social work (MHSW) in Europe. There has been very limited previous research comparing approaches to MHSW in Europe and so the aim of the study was to develop a better understanding of the similarities and differences between and, where relevant, within countries (referred to as jurisdictions). An online survey was distributed mainly through existing European networks and social media to seek information on the role, nature, extent and context of MHSW in a range of European jurisdictions. Conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 158 responses from 10 jurisdictions. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis. From this analysis, four main themes were identified, relating to: role; law, policy and education; the distinctive contribution made by MHSW; and the key challenges for MHSW. The study demonstrates that MHSW, although it is described and provided in different ways and is confined by a range of factors, plays an important role in mental health services across jurisdictions. There are also interesting differences between contexts, especially in the balance of therapeutic, legal and specialist/generic approaches, some of which reflect the World Health Organisation’s vision and objectives for mental health. Lastly, the study illustrates a need and provides a valuable basis for further comparative and collaborative work to define MHSW and enhance the contributions it makes.

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