In a pair of articles published recently, GSSW associate professor, Stacey Freedenthal, explores issues of suicidality in high school contexts. Given the prevalence of suicidal thoughts and attempts among adolescents, the important of her work cannot be overstated. The first article1 – co-authored with GSSW doctoral student Lindsey Breslin – looked at teachers’ experiences with student suicidality. The majority of the teachers reported that, at some time during their teaching career, a student had disclosed either their own suicidality or that of a peer. At the same time almost one half of the teachers had never received any suicide prevention training. Those who had received training were more likely to report that students had disclosed suicidality to them and were more likely to have directly inquired about a students’ suicidality than those who had never received training on suicide prevention. Given the reality that teachers are likely the most consistently present professional in most adolescents’ lives, much needs to be done to adequately prepare them to recognize and respond to signs of suicide risk.
The second study2 found little evidence of change in students’ help-seeking behaviors after the introduction of a high-school based suicide prevention program as reported by the students themselves or by the staff at the school. The one area of improvement found was students’ self-report of utilizing a suicide prevention helpline. The study – one of only a handful of community-based evaluation studies on suicide prevention efforts that looks specifically at behavioral changes – provides a foundation on which future studies can build.
1Freedenthal, S., & Breslin, L. (2010). High school teachers’ experiences with suicidal students: A descriptive study. Journal of Loss & Trauma, 15, 83-92
2Freedenthal, S. (2010). Adolescent help-seeking and the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program: An evaluation. Suicide and Life-threatening Behavior, 40, 628 – 639.
As social workers, we learn about the importance of advocacy and empowerment. We are called to work with and serve those most marginalized and oppressed in our communities, but often forget that as students and professionals, we must also advocate for our own needs and learning opportunities. We each come into the profession with a unique set of goals about how we hope to learn and impact change, and often, in order to achieve those goals, we must be able to advocate for ourselves to create a constructive and challenging learning environment. Here are some advocacy tips:
Critically assess your own needs and have a firm grasp over your personal and professional expectations.
Work on creating open and transparent relationships with professors and field instructors/supervisors in order to allow for respectful and valuable dialogue.
Develop relationships with peers and colleagues to not only challenge and learn from one another, but also create a healthy learning environment in the classroom.
Maintain confidence in your own capacity and push and challenge yourself to build the networks needed to reach your academic and professional goals.
Although I have always known that I wanted to go into the field of social work, it seems like my choice in concentration within the field changes on a weekly basis. Coming into graduate school, my ultimate goal was to run my own non-profit that brings service-learning into the schools and into after school programming, specifically targeting high-risk populations of youth. During my first quarter of school I constantly went back and forth between the clinical and community track. I am passionate about working with high-risk youth so part of me wanted to focus on the clinical high-risk youth track, but another part of me wanted to learn the skills I would in the community track because they would be extremely beneficial to my ultimate career goals. By the end of my first quarter, I had settled on the clinical track because I want to have a clinical internship (specifically school social work) next year and not a community internship.
Throughout this whole decision process, I had also been considering participating in the animal-assisted therapy certificate. This past week, GSSW provided information sessions on the different certificates so I decided to attend the animal-assisted session. Even though I thought it was definitely something I wanted to do, I found that I was in it for the wrong reasons. I think that involving animals in therapeutic programs is a really interesting concept. The classes required for the certificate are very focused on the science behind animal-assisted therapy and it just isn’t something I’m interested in learning about.
I have been working with a family at my internship this year that has dealt with a lot of trauma and it has become a passion of mine, so I also decided to attend the information session on the interpersonal trauma certificate. After listening to the director of the program talk about the certificate, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to do. In order to complete the certificate, your second year field placement needs to be focused on working with clients who have experienced some kind of trauma. I have decided that I really want to try out school social work next year and, luckily, it looks like there are plenty of school sites that offer trauma related social work internships. So, I decided that when I grow up, I want to be a school social worker focusing on interpersonal trauma!
To all of you who are still undecided about what you want to concentrate your studies on, please don’t worry about it!! Your first year at GSSW is all about figuring out who you are and what you are passionate about, so enjoy every second of it and take advantage of all of the learning opportunities you can. I promise you will figure it out (even if it changes every week for your entire first year)!!
A few weeks ago I presented in a day-long conference called Social Work Forum 2011. This was a day designed for current BSW students and others thinking about getting their MSW. There were representatives from several different MSW programs as well as presenters from a lot of different social work agencies. The idea was to talk about all of the many opportunities that are available to MSW students after graduation. I was really proud to be there from GSSW as I was reminded of the ways that students can specialize in our program both in our tracks and certificates as well as in the field. No other school that was there had such an innovate, specialized program. My mother would have told me that it is not good to be boastful but that is how I felt…….maybe proud is a better word. Our students have so many choices that sometimes the biggest challenge is to narrow down the focus.
This is really true in field and we are so aware of it this time of year. In anticipation of students beginning their search for next year’s internship we are working fast and furiously to update our data base. We are also opening lots of new agencies that want to partner with us for internships. This week we opened agencies dealing with conservation social work, animal-assisted social work, and cutting-edge substance abuse treatment.
The other really exciting thing is that several of our students have been accepted to participate in Project Bosnia, a summer-long internship working in post-war Bosnia, specifically Sarajevo. The students are interested in social justice, conflict resolution, restorative justice, human rights and trauma. I am working on setting up their internships so I am in touch with the United Nations, the International Red Cross, and some of the War Crimes Tribunals. In case you’re curious, here are some pictures of Sarajevo.
While some students intern in Bosnia, China or elsewhere around the globe, many others look for placements in rural Colorado, downtown Denver and everyplace in between. Some students live north of Denver in Boulder and look for internships there while others live about an hour south in Colorado Springs so they want to find an internship down there. That way they only have to drive into Denver for classes and can intern closer to home.
As we gear up for our incoming and continuing students to start searching for next year’s internship, it is a busy, hectic, and exciting time in the field education program.
Faculty and staff at GSSW are a great source of support and provide mentorship important for both my personal and professional development. Through a network of open and willing faculty and staff, I have been able to pursue my academic interests with a focus on research and collaboration. Currently, I am working on an independent study with a faculty member through which I have explored my interests in environmental justice and social work theory and practice. Not only has it challenged me in my writing and critical thinking skills, but it will also culminate in a presentation open to faculty, staff, and students at GSSW. Seeking out mentors who align with my interests and professional goals has been critical for tailoring my social work education to meet my current needs and prepare for life beyond GSSW.
One of the perks of Graduate School financial aid is Work Study awards. If you get it–accept it!
My work study experience has been really fantastic in the sense that while there are periods of time when we are really busy, there are often times when we are allowed to do our home work or read for class. This time has proven to instrumental in my ability to get much of the class readings done and yet allow me evenings to spend quality time with my dogs and boyfriend without having to worry about how much reading/writing I need to do.
There are numerous work study options that you can choose from across campus. I find it very convenient to do my work study in the GSSW building so that I can sneak in time between classes or at the end of the day without having to walk across campus. There are positions in many of the GSSW offices, technology department or with professors. Start looking for a position early for the best options but there are more positions available than there are students to fill them so if you get into a position where you’re unhappy, look around for another position and you’re likely to find something.
It’s track selection time here at GSSW. You choose a track before you begin coursework if you are an Advanced Standing student, and before 2nd year if you are a two year student. “Track” refers to whether you will study Community or Clinical practice and specializations within the clinical track.
I’ve chosen to go down the Clinical Families track, intend to get a Trauma Certificate, participate in the Denver Family Institutes certificate program (if I am admitted) and dabble a bit in Adult and Late Life courses. If I am admitted to DFI I hope to also work towards my LCSW and LMFT post-graduate.
Choosing a track can be challenging but the beautiful thing about Social Work is that choosing a track does NOT limited your career opportunities in the future and many people cross back and forth between clinical and community work throughout their careers.