Social Work Ruins Everything

12 10 2010

There, I said it. You know you were all thinking it.

I had a day off for Columbus Day yesterday. We don’t get paid terribly well, but the agency is pretty good about giving us meaningless holidays. (Or holidays that celebrate the slaughter of a people, if you want to get technical.)

I decided to finally watch “Gone With The Wind.” Somehow, I’ve never been able to sit through the four hour epic. I have family members who raved about it all my life, so I finally decided to see what the fuss was all about.

But social work ruined it.

I spent half of the movie wishing Scarlett would get into counseling. The domestic violence was shocking. Scarlett slaps everyone who will hold still long enough, and then puts up with Rhett knocking some sense into her through marital rape. (Ah, romance.)

Speaking of Scarlett and Rhett, can we say substance abuse? Those two liked their brandy, and they liked to drink alone. Not to mention the inadequate supervision that led to the death of their child. (Personally, I think naming a child “Bonnie Blue” should be grounds for terminating parental rights.)

Throw in a healthy smattering of sexism, (life is meaningless without a husband!) racism, (come on, those slaves were happy!) and the fact that I’m pretty sure Scarlett has a borderline personality, and there you have it. A social worker’s nightmare.

But it’s not just “Gone With The Wind.” Pop culture has gotten much more difficult to enjoy since getting my LMSW.

I felt left out upon noticing that my friends’ Facebook statuses were all about “Jersey Shore,” so I decided to check it out.

Big mistake. And not just due to my taking offense on behalf of the English language, and the entire east coast.

Sammi, you need DV counseling more than Scarlett. Let me call the hotline for you, they’ll pick you up and bring you to an undisclosed location. Ronnie will be upset, but he’ll get over it once he starts a new cycle of ‘roids cheats on you gets distracted by his own reflection gets into his individual counseling.

The Situation has a classic narcissistic personality disorder, and the entire house has fallen into a dangerous pattern of alcohol abuse. A visit to an open AA meeting could do these guys a world of good.

OK, so TV and movies are out. I mentioned my friends being on Facebook. That’s fun, right? Once I get beyond worrying that Mark Zuckerberg has Asperger’s, and if he could have benefitted from group therapy as a child?

No, because then my mind turns to cyber bullying. Facebook comes up a lot in sessions these days. Especially with young moms. Their baby daddy’s new girlfriend is always sending threatening messages, after my clients post incendiary photos or statuses.

My knowledge of Facebook privacy settings–limit their ability to view your profile! Block their status updates! Defriend! Defriend!–has become very important to my work.

Let’s try music. How about a concert?

Oh boy.

There are teenagers everywhere. Do we honestly think I can be surrounded by teens and avoid social working? They must all be in such conflict with their parents. Oh, identity vs identity diffusion! I hope their parents know where they are. Do any of these kids have PINS warrants? I bet some of them do. I’ll call my friend in family court, just to be safe. Hey, hey, hey, are you sexting, young lady?

This doesn’t leave much. At least the holidays are approaching, so I can spend some time with my extended family.

Shouldn’t be any opportunities for off-the-clock social working there.

A Snarky Title Seems Inappropriate When the Topic is Suicide

4 10 2010

Unless you’ve been too busy viewing Facebook photos catching up on progress notes to watch the news, you’re probably aware of what’s being called an “epidemic” of suicide amongst teens who either are gay, or are perceived to be gay. Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Billy Lucas, Tyler Clementi, and Raymond Chase all took their own lives in the past month.

Wow. It’s even exhausting to write.

It’s being discussed ad nauseum all over: MTV, CNN, the Times, Jackass Central Focus on the Family, and a variety of other blogs. (Apparently, there are other blogs.)

I felt the need to bring it up here. Because this is a social work issue.

Some of us work in schools. A lot of us work with children and teens. All of us work with gay people, whether that is the focus of our work and our agency’s mission or not.

This is a social work issue, because this is affecting our kids.

I used to work with a ten year old boy who got bullied mercilessly in school. He was sweet and sensitive. His mother loved him, but she just couldn’t understand him.  His father desperately wanted him to toughen up. The school staff thought if he stopped whining and “being such a target,” the bullying would stop.

I assumed that this kid was gay. He never mentioned anything one way or the other, but it seemed likely. (I noticed him staring at my chest one day, and thought maybe I had the kid pegged wrong. Until he looked up at me and said, completely genuine, “Miss, I love your necklace.”) His parents also never brought up his sexuality, but it was clearly their number one fear.

I no longer work with this family, or this child. But I worry about him. Whether he’s gay or not, that’s the perception people have of him. Was Billy Lucas gay? No one knows, but his peers tormented him because they thought he was.

GLSEN, a great resource, tells us that nine out of ten LGBT middle and high schooler experience harassment at school, and they’re four times more likely to commit suicide.

This is a social work issue because we can do something about it.

These kids talk about wanting staff and other adults to intervene on their behalf, and to protect them. Social workers have a long, usually proud history of working with marginalized people. We have a commitment to serving people who need us the most.

This past month has sent us a clear message about who needs us.

One of my coworkers works with a fifteen year old boy who identifies as gay, and as of late is considering that he might be trans. He’s figuring himself out, but he’s comfortable. He loves wearing make up, and his manicure is always much better than mine.

And he is mercilessly tormented in his Bronx public high school. The school has admitted that they can’t protect him, and recommend that he stay home until they can get him a safety transfer.

This kid is fortunate to have a supportive mother, and a great social worker. When my coworker went to this teen’s school to talk about his future, she brought a male coworker of ours as “backup.” Not because she was concerned about being attacked by the students if they started to harass him. Because she thought she wouldn’t be able to hold herself back from slapping a child if the harassment occurred.

That’s a Mama Grizzly for you, Mrs. Palin.

Even so, we’re concerned about how much he can take.

We’re planning to start a group for LGBT teens, and our traditionally Catholic agency is surprisingly receptive. I’m hopeful that it will have some effect in convincing these kids that they’re not alone, people do love them, and that it gets better.

We all need to work on this. I would sincerely hope that anyone reading this is pro-equality in all respects, including marriage, ending DADT, and other issues. It is the social work way. But whatever your political leanings are, these are kids we’re talking about. And we can help them.

Because this is a social work issue.