From the Desk of the President

Dafna

March, 2024

By Dafna Berman, MSW, LCSW

Happy Social Work Month! Our theme for this year is "Empowering Social Workers – Inspiring Action, Leading Change." For some time, the Association has worked towards empowering social workers to actively attend to burnout prevention by prioritizing self-care and approaching it as an ethical responsibility. The Association also prioritizes compensation and working conditions for social workers. Social workers increasingly feel empowered to engage in salary negotiations, and we are witnessing a movement among students calling for paid internships. One of the goals of the Chapter's strategic plan is to empower social workers towards self-promotion, individually as employees in agencies and organizations and as a profession. We need to normalize highlighting ways in which, with our unique skillset and perspective, we bring tremendous added value to our employers and multidisciplinary teams. Social workers are also well-positioned to take on leadership positions in various settings.

 Social workers lead and inspire action to address society's most pressing issues in the 21st Century. We know that the problem of climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable and marginalized communities. Social workers collaborate with other disciplines in taking action to address climate justice, including working with communities to plan and mitigate adverse consequences. As the profession embraces advanced technologies and harnesses their potential to improve lives, we are also aware of the importance of Algorithmic Justice. Artificial intelligence is a great tool, but it also has the potential to perpetuate existing biases and inequities or even deepen them. This arena offers social workers, who are empowered to lean into the discomfort we often have with technologies, multiple opportunities to collaborate with the tech industry to continue and protect civil rights.

 A leading edge that Social Work practice and scholarship hold, which has allowed us to be effective change agents, is our ecological systems approach to understanding various situations and the challenges inherited in them. It is, therefore, crucial for social work practitioners and scholars to be empowered to practice intellectual curiosity and Socratic methods. Social workers need to maintain the freedom to consider a variety of theoretical frameworks and conceptualizations when seeking to gain an understanding of complex human conditions. "Insistence on seeing the world in this rigid and simplistic way cannot hold up in the face of critical thinking, evidence, or appraisal of person-in-environment. It cannot maintain its current hold as the best way for a social worker to think unless it is presented as the only way a social worker is allowed to think" (Farber & Fram, 2024).

 Social workers must be able and willing to consider the unique historical contexts of geopolitical problems prior to jumping in and proposing solutions. A cookie-cutter approach is antithetical to social work practice and scholarship. Our conceptualizations and understanding of injustices and social problems in North America cannot be superimposed, as a one-size-fits-all template, on geopolitical conflicts in faraway places with a markedly different historical context. "Over recent decades, social work has become increasingly hegemonic in its condemnation of any idea, any society, any people to which the word 'oppressor' can strategically—however wrongly— be attached. This is reflected in the explicit language that characterizes social work curricula and that fills the pages of our journals, and in the informal norms that shape what can be said in faculty meetings versus what is denigrated, silenced, and punished" (Farber & Fram, 2024).

 When we prioritize adhering to a theory and attempt to manipulate facts to fit it while intentionally overlooking information that doesn't fit its premise, we have replaced the theory with an ideology. Throughout the history of our profession, theoretical conceptualizations have evolved to incorporate new knowledge and scientific findings. "This ideology is self-reinforcing as it shuts down dialog and debate; prevents thorough vetting and ongoing refinement of ideas; is intolerant of nuance and complexity; and replaces independent, thoughtful analysis with blind allegiance" (Farber & Fram, 2024).

 At our 2022 Annual Conference, the late Dr. Mildred "Mit" Joyner (past president of the Association) discussed her belief that the world is ready for the social work profession and her concerns that perhaps social work might not be ready for the world. I believe that it is imperative for our profession to maintain its intellectual curiosity and humility if we are to remain strong in the 21st Century. It is tough to learn when one already knows everything. Personal and professional growth comes from asking questions, not from having all the answers.

Best regards,

Dafna

References:

Naomi B Farber, Maryah Stella Fram, The Danger of Ideology: Social Work, Israel, and Anti-Semitism, Social Work, 2024;, swad052, https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/swad052

December, 2023

By Dafna Berman, MSW, LCSW

Dear Chapter members,

Fall is my favorite season; however, this fall is unlike any other. My heart was ripped out of my chest on October 7th, and I was left with a bleeding wound instead. Time has stood still for me since that black Sabbath. I am just one of many people who are in profound pain and experiencing existential angst these days. We are witnessing a frightening surge in antisemitism, Islamophobia, and hate crimes. I am Jewish and Israeli and can only speak to my own experience and that of my community. I would like to encourage Chapter members who have been affected by Islamophobia, directly or indirectly, to share their stories through our quarterly newsletter.

The Jewish people have some three thousand years of collective trauma. That’s many generations, and I won’t do the math right now. The Holocaust is the most recent, most documented, and, unfortunately, most successful attempt to annihilate us. A third of the community was wiped out during WWII. We recognize antisemitism when we see it. We saw it on October 7th with the depravity and viciousness of the massacre, and we are seeing it now with attempts to “contextualize” it as liberation and resistance. Efforts to separate antisemitism from antizionism are like splitting hairs. The preoccupation with semantics is just that, and similar to prefacing “I’m not racist, but…” before making a racist comment. If a BIPOC person says it’s racist, it’s racist. If a Jewish person says it’s antisemitic, it’s antisemitic. Period.

Please use caution with the words you choose to convey strong emotions and beliefs. Words have consequences. They fuel hate and lead to violence. Throwing terms such as genocide, apartheid, war crimes, etc., outside of their actual definitions is careless and irresponsible. Take the time to look up the definitions, which are, in fact, very granular and specific. Consider using words that better capture what reality actually is, as opposed to what it feels like. Consider the possibility that the cognitive models we rely on to conceptualize one situation might not be suited for others. We ask that of our clients every day.

Thank you,

Dafna

By Dafna Berman, MSW, LCSW

September 2023

Dear Chapter members,

Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of traveling to Washington, DC, on your behalf to the NASW Association Leadership Meeting (ALM). I was joined by our regional representative to the National Board, and our former Chapter president, Kristi Wood, and, of course, our executive director, Marc Herstand. Coming together with fellow presidents and executive directors from states and territories chapters and the leadership of the National Office and National Board was a once-in-a-lifetime experience! I was so proud (still am:-) of our Chapter’s accomplishments and ongoing work, which are on par with those of Mega Chapters.

We addressed pressing issues and challenges facing the profession and their implications for practice. The absence of the late Dr. Mildred Joyner hovered like a dark cloud the entire duration of the gathering. There was an unspoken consensus that things are just not the same without her. Her passing in the week that followed was a tremendous loss for our profession. Our Chapter was graced to have her as the keynote speaker of our 2022 Annual Conference, with her talk “The World is Ready for Social Work - Is Social Work Ready for the World?” Her monumental work during her tenure as the President of the Association inspires and strengthens us as we face an uncertain future. I was delighted to meet in person, at the ALM, our new Executive Director, Dr. Anthony Estreet, and inspired by his vision for ‘One Association.’ As an Association and as a profession, we could not be in better hands, and I have full faith that he is absolutely the right person to lead us into the 21st Century.

The highlight of our trip to D.C. was, of course, Advocacy Day! It was truly humbling to walk around Capitol Hill on our way from the office of one elected official to another. Unfortunately, Congress was not in session, and our Senators and Congressional Representatives were back home in Wisconsin! We had the opportunity to meet and connect with the Legislative Directors and Legislative Assistants of Senators Baldwin and Johnson, Representatives Moore, Grothman, Gallagher, and Fitzgerald. We asked them to cosponsor and support four pieces of legislation that directly affect practitioners and our clients:

The Improving Access to Mental Health Act (S. 838/H.R. 1638) will increase reimbursement rates for LCSWs from 75% to 85% of the physician rate and put us on par with other master’s level providers (e.g., Speech Therapists)

The School Social Workers Improving Student Success Act (H.R. 1415) will provide grants to schools to maintain the minimum ratio of student/social workers and establish the National Technical Assistance Center for School Social Work

The More Social Workers in Libraries Act (H.R. 3006) will fund internships for social work students in public libraries and employ social workers to oversee the interns

The Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act (S. 1452/H.R. 3073) will establish CDC grants for community initiatives to enhance and sustain population-level mental wellness and resilience

As we wrap up a summer filled with many burning issues (literally and figuratively), I hope we can all find the inner peace we need to keep doing our important work. We are also approaching the Jewish New Year and High Holidays, a time for reflection, introspection, and soul searching. May we all find a way to be the best version of ourselves in the upcoming year!

Dafna

June 2023

The sky is falling! …but not all the way.” I appreciate this phrase because it acknowledges the troubles we are facing yet allows for a dose of optimism and hope for the future. I am wrapping up my first year as the Chapter’s president, unfortunately, my statement in my very first newsletter, that we are living in unprecedented times is just as true now as it was then.

We are witnessing the unthinkable unfolding right before our eyes. Our democracy is falling apart, and our gains since the civil rights movement are so easily knocked down. Abortion bans, LGBTQ bans, book bans, we’ve seen it before. The parallels and similarities with Germany of the 1930s are too stark to ignore. As a Jewish person, I have always asked myself how it was possible for a country with such rich culture and enlightened intelligentsia to descend to the darkest version of humanity. Never in my wildest imagination did I believe that I would understand exactly how it happens, because I am witnessing it in my lifetime.

I want to suggest that we consider the State of Florida as a preview of a very realistic future for the rest of us. Parents who attend to LGBTQ children’s healthcare needs, often lifesaving, risk having those children taken into State custody. The State can press charges against people accessing lifesaving medical procedures in another state. History books that suggest our history is less than rosy are banned. The teachings and discussions of diversity, equity, and inclusion are prohibited in public universities. It has become impossible to practice and teach social work in the State. Travel advisories have been issued for Florida: unless you are white, heterosexual, and conservative, you are not safe. Florida is turning into a fascist regime, and the governor could very well end up being our president.

To top this off, we are dealing with a looming climate crisis and Artificial Intelligence that cannot be trusted to make ethical decisions. So, how do we sustain a hopeful outlook in this doom-and-gloom scenario? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? The Dutch philosopher and historian Rutger Bregman believes so. In his book “Humankind – a Hopeful History,” he argues that humans are in fact good and caring by nature. He argues that leaders in Western civilizations have falsely perpetuated the notion that people are motivated by self-interests over the millennia. He refers to the Nocebo Effect (opposite of placebo), in which expecting the worst of each other leads to self-fulfilling prophecies. He revisits critical historical events and narratives from a challenging point of view and dispels myths about how our evil inclinations drive us.

So what is the solution? What can we do in our everyday life? The answer may seem counterintuitive, but I believe it is love. Yes, unconditional love for all G-d’s creatures. In Judaism, our oral traditions teach us that the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed some 2,000 years ago because of “sinaat chinam” – senseless hatred. We also learn that all suffering in the world will end when we have “ahavat chinam” – unconditional love for one another. It is very easy to love people who are like us in terms of beliefs and ideas. It is very difficult to love someone whose beliefs and ideas go against everything we stand for. Yet, this is precisely what we need to do. By being generous with our love, kindness, and compassion (without a reason, just because), we can overcome the senseless hatred brewing in our midst. Many faiths and spiritual practices share this concept. Spiritual practice is an essential component of self-care. How do we embody the change we want to see? In Hebrew, we greet each other with “shalom aleychem” – peace be onto you (“Salaam alaykum” in Arabic). The word for peace (shalom) is of the same root as the word for wholeness (shalem). Let’s remember that we, whether we like it or not, are all connected and greater than the sum of our parts.

“The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it,
if only we’re brave enough to be it.”

(Amanda Gorman – most recent scholar to be banned in Florida)

Peace,

Dafna

March 2023

Happy Social Work Month!

We’ve come a long way since Social Work instruction began 125 years ago. I am so proud of us! We are a unique bunch of go-getters and fierce advocates. We roll up our sleeves and get things done. This year, our theme is ‘Social Work Breaks Barriers.’ There is a long list of barriers we have broken over the history of our profession, of which we should be very proud. One aspect that I believe could use some improvement is learning to take credit for our accomplishments, collectively and individually. More than any other profession, we tend to experience discomfort around self-promotion. Sometimes we even have a hard time explaining what we do. That is, I believe because our impact is so much more than the sum of our activities. We are agents of change.

That being said, we mustn’t rest on our laurels. I believe our profession has arrived at a maturity level where we are ready to take a hard look at ourselves and consider ways we sometimes are part of the problem. To echo our President, Dr. Joyner, and her message at our annual conference – is social work ready for the world? What barriers do we need to overcome in the 21st Century? I would argue that at this point in our journey, our barriers within are what we need to examine.

Paradoxically, at a time when the need for social workers is most dire, we are the ones putting up barriers that are preventing people from entering the profession. The corporate world understands that diversity of cultural backgrounds, viewpoints, and perspectives is good for innovation and novel solutions. We could use some disruption and radical changes to how we conceptualize and approach societal problems. Our profession misses out on talent and transformation when we exclude BIPOC, neurodivergent, and older-wiser individuals. Our Western/Euro-centric perspectives have taken us as far as they could, and we must be able to think out of the box. Why, then, are we insisting that in order to enter the profession, one has to think like a middle-class white person? What is the benefit of that?

I believe we have an ethical obligation to work towards the decolonization of our profession and incorporate abolitionist practices. I also think it is time to reevaluate our problematic relationships with law enforcement, criminal justice, and child welfare (family policing). These systems are direct offshoots of slavery, Jim Crow, and white supremacy. They continuously cause more harm than good, and we remain unsuccessful in changing them from within. Being associated with them causes distrust from clients and increases practitioners’ vulnerability to moral injuries.

In the conversation around the ASWB exam pass rate disparities, there are voices concerned that our profession’s esteem is tied to having licensing exams. We have worked hard over the years to establish ourselves as equals among other professions and academic disciplines, and we have successfully leveraged this position to effectively advocate for our clients. That being said, we have an ethical obligation to follow our True North as the only helping profession whose vision and mission are primarily concerned with social justice. Breaking barriers is inherently an uncomfortable endeavor.

As we approach spring, many celebrate Ramadan, Passover, and Easter. Many know Passover to be a story of redemption from slavery for the ancient Hebrews. It is also a story of courage and faith that better is possible when we overcome and transcend our fears. The Hebrew name for Egypt (‘Mitzrayim’) means constraints. Our Sages teach us that we were redeemed from a state of constraints and narrow-mindedness. Our oral traditions also tell us that most Hebrews chose to stay due to fear of the unknown. For those that did leave for the long journey, the Red Sea didn’t actually part until they were neck deep in the water. This story might offer inspiration as we navigate uncertainty in our worlds.

Yours,

Dafna

December 2022

Dear chapter members,

I am writing this column on the Friday following Thanksgiving. The Holiday Season is once again upon us as we transition from a holiday of gratitude to a holiday of giving. There are communities amongst us that don’t share this sentiment and narrative. “Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.”

How do we hold space in our hearts for the pain carried by so many communities? How do we acknowledge that our prosperity has, and continues to, come at the expense of others here and across the globe? I don’t have the answers. However, I believe that the value of these questions is more in them being articulated than in rushing to furnish answers with which we can live comfortably. The abundance that many of us enjoy in western countries is made possible through ongoing traditions of extraction and practices of exploitation. We consume disproportionate amounts of earth’s resources, and the mechanisms by which cheap goods and services are furnished to us are destroying the planet and making us sick in the process.

Those who attended our annual conference will remember that we began with land acknowledgment. We also verbalized intentions to respect the elders, past, present, and future, of the First Nations, whose land we now populate. What does respecting elders look like? Different cultures might have various traditions around that; one thing that comes to my mind is upholding the values and priorities that elders instill in their communities. As we approach the holiday season, I encourage you to identify the traditional inhabitant of the area where you live and acknowledge that as you come together with family and friends.

As a profession, I believe we need to be more vocal and call attention to how climate change and extreme weather disproportionately affect poor and marginalized communities. What is the role of social work in addressing the consequences of exploitation of land, labor, and natural resources? The discourse on environmental justice is already ongoing and leading it is a natural place for our profession to be. Please reach out to me and let me know what New Year resolutions you believe we should make as a profession and as practitioners.

Wishing you a meaningful holiday season and a Happy New Year!

Dafna

Mequon, WI – unceded land of the Potawatomi, Myaamia, Kickapoo, and Peoria People

https://blog.nativehope.org/what-does-thanksgiving-mean-to-native-americans

Marya, R., & Patel, R. (2021). Inflamed: deep medicine and the anatomy of injustice. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

https://native-land.ca

September 2022

Dear Chapter members! 

I am honored to serve as the Chapter's Board President for the upcoming two years and humbled to be elected. Ever since I was in my BSW program, I have considered NASW to be the True North of our profession. The world has undergone many changes since I was a BSW student; for example, we now have internet… Fast forward to today, our profession continues to be challenged by old problems, albeit at times under new guises and new concerns. We are faced with scenarios that a few years ago were considered unlikely; events that we could not believe were ever going to happen are now part of our daily reality. We are learning to harness the potential of advanced technologies to improve the lives of our clients. However, we must also be acutely aware of how these technologies can and are being used to perpetuate and deepen inequalities and injustices in the twenty-first century. In the age of big data and artificial intelligence, it is imperative that we are proficient in and competent in navigating the mechanisms operating behind the scenes (i.e., algorithms and code) if we are to continue to advocate for social justice successfully.

Social Work as a profession is more committed than ever to taking a deep and hard look at ourselves and examining our complicated history of reinforcing racial biases, and allowing ourselves to be used as a tool in advancing the interests of white supremacy. The death of Queen Elizabeth affords us an opportunity to examine the monarchy's central role in expanding the British Empire to its many colonies. One would inevitably be curious and enchanted by life cycle ceremonies in the Royal Family. It offers a welcomed break from our hectic and stressful lives with its fairytale charm. However, I would like for us to hold space for the far too many communities worldwide that still struggle to heal from wounds and losses inflicted by the violence with which European Monarchies established their colonies. The violence was, at least partly, guided by an ideology that centers on whiteness and European ways of knowing, of being in the world, as preferred, superior, something to be modeled and aspire to.

For those of us who are the beneficiaries of white privilege, there is a growing awareness of the imperative to examine and revisit our assumptions, biases, beliefs, and origins. The voices calling for the decolonization of institutions, professions, and other aspects of our society, are growing louder, and I believe we should pay attention. With an ongoing commitment to addressing and eradicating racial biases, I believe our profession has the maturity and foresight to engage in difficult conversations about ways we might be part of the problem. As many of you are aware, recently released data from ASWB (Association of Social Work Boards) revealed extreme racial disparities in licensure exam pass rates. Additional concerns have emerged with regard to ABSW's responses to valid questions and critiques. What does it mean to decolonize Social Work? I look forward to learning at our Annual Conference! We have what looks like a thought-provoking presentation on the topic on the first day, and I hope you can join me.

In the Jewish tradition, fall is a season of renewal and rebirth. We celebrate the beginning of the year on the Hebrew Calendar (Rosh HaShanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) ten days later. Many people are familiar with these holidays as the High Holidays. These ten days are dedicated to introspection, soul searching, and setting our intentions for the New Year to be the best we can be as individuals, a community, and a profession dedicated to social justice. A central concept in Judaism is Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. We recognize that it is our responsibility to make the world a better place and that we must be proactive about it and intentional with our actions and thoughts. Repairing the world is hard work and involves a lot of discomforts. I want to wish all of us that for this upcoming year, we stay intentional about our profession's vision, mission, and ethics. During this time, we wish each other a good year. What can we do to make this a good year and be the change we want to see?

L'Shanah Tovah,

Dafna

The President's Column

June 2022

Dawn

By Dawn Shelton-Williams, MSW, LCSW

 From the Desk of The President

Summer in Wisconsin is a time for sunshine and warmer weather, trips to the lake, attending many diverse festivals, taking vacations, and spending time with family and friends. Summer brings on a time of change. In thinking about change, I think about our profession of social work and our work as social workers. Change, defined as a transitive verb in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means to make different in some particular way: a: ALTER; b: to make radically different : TRANSFORM; and c: to give a different position, course, or direction to.  As NASW-WI Board President for the past 2 years, I observed how NASW and NASW-WI altered and transformed our nation on issues that impacted marginalized and oppressed people and people, who are often viewed as having no voice. NASW-WI has taken a stance and advocated for change on issues pertaining to systemic racism; conversion therapy; gun violence; licensure issues (delay issues from DSPS); and  telehealth issues. The COVID 19 pandemic touched and changed all of our lives. Many people were impacted physically, mentally, financially, and spiritually.  At the onset of COVID 19 and during the pandemic, social workers showed the world how essential we are!  COVID 19 contributed to a change in how we communicate with each other and work. This new change contributed to social workers learning new skills in technology and new ways to reach and help people impacted by COVID 19, along with other social issues. We learned new ways to communicate with each other via Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings. Our work as social workers didn’t stop!  NASW-WI held its first virtual conference in 2020, followed by a hybrid conference in 2021. Both conferences were well attended. One of my most exciting experiences as Board President for NASW-WI. was to participate in the development of a Leadership and Mentorship program for Graduate Students of Color in Social Work! The program welcomed a second cohort in January 2022.

As I reflect on change and the change that our world has experienced during the past 2 years, I think about gratitude. I am grateful for so many things in my life. I am grateful for my family, friends, colleagues and clients. I am grateful for the opportunity to have served as your Board President over the past 2 years. Serving as Board President during the COVID-19 pandemic was an interesting experience!  I am grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the decision making process as Board President, to help better the lives of social workers, people we serve, and the community. I am grateful for Marc Herstand, NASW-WI Executive Director, the NASW-WI Board members, the NASW-WI staff and interns, and the NASW-WI committee members for their hard work, dedication, and commitment to the mission and vision of NASW and to the social work profession. I am grateful for NASW-WI members, who, are out there working hard daily to help people and communities. Thank you for all that you do!

I want to thank you for your support, kind words, and encouragement that I received as your NASW-WI Board President over the past 2 years. I learned a lot serving in this role, and I am thankful for the opportunity! It will be bittersweet to facilitate my last board meeting this month. Although bittersweet, it is a pleasure and honor to turn over the seat to NASW-WI’s next Board President, Dafna Berman! She brings a love and passion for the profession, great leadership and advocacy skills, and a wealth of knowledge and experience. She will lead us as we continue to encounter change in the profession. I would like to end my last newsletter with a quote from Maya Angelou. Ms. Angelou stated, “ I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I think this quote is befitting for the work that we do as social workers. We are catalysts for change.

Continue to shine and promote our wonderful profession, social work! I wish you well and enjoy the summer!

 By Dawn Shelton-Williams, MSW, LCSW

The President's Column

March 2022

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT

“THE TIME IS RIGHT FOR SOCIAL WORK” is the perfect theme for Social Work month!  Daily, people are faced with challenges and barriers to social determinants of health (SDOH).  Social determinants of health are defined as “conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks” (Healthy People. Gov website). The social determinants of health are the economic and social conditions that influence individual and group differences in health status.  Social determinants of health (Healthy People. Gov) include:

¨ Availability of resources to meet daily needs (e.g., safe housing and local food markets)

¨ Access to educational, economic, and job opportunities

¨ Access to health care services

¨ Quality of education and job training

¨ Availability of community-based resources in support of community living and opportunities for recreational and leisure-time activities

¨ Transportation options

¨ Public safety

¨ Social support

¨ Social norms and attitudes (e.g., discrimination, racism, and distrust of government)

¨ Exposure to crime, violence, and social disorder (e.g., presence of trash and lack of cooperation in a community)

¨ Socioeconomic conditions (e.g., concentrated poverty and the stressful conditions that accompany it)

¨ Residential segregation

¨ Language/Literacy

¨ Access to mass media and emerging technologies (e.g., cell phones, the Internet, and social media)

¨ Culture

Social Workers are pivotal and instrumental in helping people address the challenges and barriers to the SDOHs cited above.  We have the education, expertise, and skills to work effectively with people in a wholistic and person-centered manner to address and resolve challenges and barriers in life.  Currently, the United States is experiencing one of its worst economic downturns since the Great Depression.  As a nation, we continue to deal with two pandemics, COVID-19 and Systemic Racism.  COVID-19 and Systemic Racism impact the physical, mental, and spiritual health of a person.  As a nation, we witnessed the traumatic impact of the pandemics on people, especially, people of color.  There was a significant impact on the health of Black and Brown communities compared to other communities.  There was also a significant impact on the mental health and wellness of people.  People reported higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression and adjustment.  Social Workers were and are on the front lines helping people to overcome the trauma and crises associated with both pandemics!  We are ESSENTIAL!

As you celebrate Social Work month, think about the contribution of our profession to our nation’s history and the contribution you are making to our nation.  Social workers fought for civil and voting rights for people of color; protested American intervention in wars; achieved the minimum wage and safe workplaces for poor people; expanded reproductive and employment rights for American women; supported marriage and employment protections for LGBT people; advocated for immigrants seeking asylum; pushed for sensible gun laws and anti-violence initiatives; raised awareness about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment; and fought for client privacy and mental health services (NASW).

As you celebrate this month, think about the legacy of Social Work, your legacy as a social worker, and diverse ways to promote the profession!  Take a few minutes to view the Social Work video for this month (https://youtu.be/R6NYI1Uvn08) and take the social work quiz on the national website.  As social workers, we have a rich history and legacy in Social Work.  

THE TIME IS RIGHT FOR SOCIAL WORK.  

Happy Social Work Month!

The President's Column

December 2021

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT

According to Wikipedia, Gratitude comes from the latin word gratus which means "pleasing, thankful".  it is a feeling of appreciation felt by and/or similar positive response shown by the recipient of kindness gifts, help, favors, or other types of generosity, to the giver of said gifts. gratitude in the simplest form is the “state of thankfulness” or the “state of being grateful”.  dopamine and serotonin are two important neurotransmitters in our brain that are responsible for our emotions.  they make us feel good by enhancing our mood immediately, which makes us feel happy from the inside.  practicing gratitude daily can help these neural pathways to strengthen and eventually create a permanent grateful and positive nature within us, which builds our inner strength.  this is helpful in fighting stress (gratitude: a tool to reduce stress, north dakota behavioral health services).  gratitude is scientifically proven to have benefits on a person’s physical and mental well-being.  in psychology today, the article, 7 scientifically proven benefits of gratitude: you'll be grateful that you made the change (and you'll sleep better), written by amy morin, a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and the author of the best- selling book “13 things mentally strong people don't do” identifies seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude. (psychology today, april 3, 2015)

the benefits are:

1. gratitude opens the door to more relationships. according to a 2014 study published in emotion. the study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship.

2. gratitude improves physical health. grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in personality and individual differences. not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. they exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.

3. gratitude improves psychological health. gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. robert emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. his research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.

4. gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kindly, according to a 2012 study by the university of kentucky. study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. they experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.

5. grateful people sleep better. writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in applied psychology: health and well-being. spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.

6. gratitude improves self-esteem. a 2014 study published in the journal of applied sport psychology found that gratitude increased athletes’ self-esteem, an essential component to optimal performance. other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs - a major factor in reduced self-esteem - grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.

7. gratitude increases mental strength. for years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. a 2006 study published in behavior research and therapy found that vietnam war veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. a 2003 study published in the journal of personality and social psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience, following the terrorist attacks on september 11. recognizing all that you have to be thankful for - even during the worst times - fosters resilience.

as i reflect upon the last 20 months, i think about how blessed my life is.  despite how covid -19 has impacted my life; the social injustices that occurred in our country; and other life changes, i am grateful and thankful for my health, my family, my cat, dixie, my church family, my sorority sisters, my friends, my home, my job, my clients, my colleagues, and professional networks.  i am grateful and thankful to serve as nasw-wi’s board president and to have attended, in-person, nasw-wi’s 47th annual conference, the first hybrid conference for the organization.  the conference was awesome!  i am also thankful and grateful for the civic-minded boards, councils, and committees i serve on that advocate for the rights of those who are vulnerable or often seen as “voiceless”. 

as we enter into the joyous holiday season, let us remember the importance of gratitude.  i wish you and your family a joyous, happy and safe holiday season!

the president's column

september 2021

from the desk of the president

autumn(fall) is one of my favorite times of the year.  the change of season from summer to fall is marked by changes in nature.  the temperature begins to cool down and the leaves begin to change from green to bright beautiful colors of red, yellow, and orange!  fall also makes me think about the concepts of change and transformation.  change and transformation that are observed both in personal and environmental spaces of a person’s life.  i read an article about the seven symbolic meanings of  autumn by kirsten nunez (2016).  the article focuses on how to embrace change that comes with the autumn season.  in the article, she talks about what she learned about the seven symbolic meanings associated with the autumn equinox. she talks about autumn as a time for self -reflection, change, and reconnection. the seven symbolic meanings identified in the article are:

change  

mystery

preservation

protection

comfort

balance

letting go

heraclitus, the greek philosopher, is referenced for the first symbolic meaning of autumn(fall) which is change. heraclitus stated that “the only constant is change”.  fall reminds us that our minds, bodies, and surroundings are always changing.  we experience this as we begin to observe the changes in nature in fall.  the temperature begins to cool down and the leaves on the trees begin to change from green to bright colors of red, orange and yellow!   since change is constant, it is a good reminder to us to embrace experiences as they happen.  it is important to embrace them in the present.  life is short and we do not know what it will bring to us from minute to minute.  mystery is described as the outcome that comes from the day to day changes in life. change in life brings on new mysteries.  i like to view the new mysteries as new opportunities in life.  preservation is the third symbolic meaning in the article.  fall represents the preservation of life and its basic necessities.  the author discusses that during fall, animals begin to store food and find safe places for hibernation for winter. farmers begin to harvest crops for food for the winter.  as the weather begins to change(falling temperatures), we tend to spend more time in the safety and comfort of our homes.  this is a good time for us to reconnect with ourselves.  as summer switches to fall, we focus on protection.  protection is viewed from a physical lens.  we begin to dress in warmer clothes to protect ourselves from the cooler temperatures and focus more on taking care of ourselves so that we do not get sick. the fifth symbolic meaning of autumn is comfort.  as the temperature drops, we tend to look for ways to find comfort within our homes.  this is a good time to reflect on what makes us happy and what makes us feel safe.  balance is the next symbolic meaning of autumn in the article.  day and night are the same length during the autumn equinox.  ancient cultures associated the autumn equinox with the concept of balance in life.  during autumn, the author describes us harmonizing with the earth and drawing from the balance within ourselves. the last symbolic meaning of autumn in the article is letting go.  when we look within ourselves, what can we let go?

although the article focused on the 7 symbolic meanings of autumn (fall), i thought about how these meanings can be integrated within social work practice.  as social workers, we deal with change and transformation on a daily basis.  we are skilled in dealing with social issues on the micro and macro levels to help people who are often seen as “invisible” or “voiceless” in society.i challenge you to think about the concepts of change; mystery; preservation; protection;  comfort; balance; and letting go, and how you integrate these concepts into your social work practice as you help others and how do you integrate them within your personal life as a social worker.

by dawn shelton-williams, msw, lcsw