Social Work Corner – May 2024

Mental Health Awareness

By CILA's Social Work Team

As children’s immigration advocates, you navigate challenges alongside your clients. These challenges may not only test their resilience but also profoundly impact their mental health. As advocates your role goes beyond legal support to creating a nurturing environment that fosters growth and healing.  

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, offering not just a chance to raise awareness but also to prioritize the mental well-being of our clients and our own. By tending to our own needs, we ensure that we recharge and equip ourselves with the tools needed to provide optimal support to those we serve and ourselves. This commitment to self-care enhances our effectiveness as advocates and enriches our personal lives, fostering stronger connections and greater growth in all aspects of life. 

Tips for Supporting Your Client's Emotional Well-Being 

  • Awareness: Education is empowering. Educate your clients and their families about what mental health is and how it encompasses emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Provide information about the resources available to them such as local mental health services, counseling centers, psychiatric clinics, support groups and helplines. 
  • Safe Space: Create a space where your clients feel safe to express their thoughts and engage in difficult conversations. Emphasize the importance of language in shaping one’s perceptions and attitudes towards mental health. In this safe space, encourage the use of respectful and non-stigmatizing language. 
  • Curiosity: Use your sense of curiosity to learn from and about your client, listening attentively and empathetically to their story, their culture, their success, and challenges and their internal strengths. Recognize their innate abilities to cope, adapt and thrive despite adversity. 

Tips for Prioritizing Your Own Well-Being as an Advocate  

  • Boundaries: Identify and respect your professional boundaries. This includes emotional boundaries to maintain emotional objectivity while still demonstrating empathy and compassion. It also includes time boundaries. Clearly communicate your availability and respect your own time-bound capacity. Boundaries help you recognize when you need to step back and take a break.  
  • Support: Seek help and support from your support system-family, friends, or colleagues who understand the unique pressures of your work. Sharing your experiences creates opportunities for mutual understanding and validation. Exchanging coping strategies and insights with your support system can provide new perspectives, comfort, and practical solutions to manage stress effectively. 
  • Professional Help: Seeking professional help is a pro-active step towards self-care and growth. A mental health provider can offer a non-judgmental space to express your feelings, thoughts, and experiences. They can help you identify areas of concern and help you further explore coping strategies and techniques to manage challenges faced.  
  • Self-Care: Self-care practice does not have to be perfect; it just has to fit your needs. Finding what helps you recharge and find long lasting emotional well-being is key. Try different things. Self-care can be physical - like engaging in activities such as walking, practicing yoga, breathing exercise; practical – like cleaning and making sure you have an environment that brings you comfort; or social – like engaging in activities that nurture and deepen the relationships with the people in your life. Incorporate self-care into your routine with mindfulness.