Consumer Groups in Mental Health

  • 46% of all Americans experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, pg. 145).
  • Social workers in the mental health field work in many areas including: emergency, psychiatric services, hospitals, residential programs, partial hospital programs, and outpatient services. (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, pg. 145)
  • Social workers in this field also work with some different types of consumer groups. (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, pg. 152)mh

1.Children and Adolescents (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, pg. 153-154)

  • Half of mental orders manifest by age 14, and 3/4 by age 21
  • Mental health services are not presently available in the same quantity/quality as those for adults
  • Some factors that can increase a child’s risk for mental disorders include: physical/sexual abuse, substance abuse, running away from home, sexually abusing others, history of family violence, caregivers who have felony convictions, substance abuse problems, histories of psychiatric hospitalization, or a sibling in foster care or any institutional setting
  • Federal laws now require school districts to serve disabled children, so many social workers work in early childhood intervention programs. These last from age 3-22.

2. Consumers with Co-ocurring Disorders (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, pg. 154)

  • Many people have multiple disorders at the same time; including a mental illness  and another medical problem such as substance abuse, heart disease, HIV/AIDS and many others
  • Treatment agencies attempt to provide integrated treatments, but many times consumers must go from agency to agency because these programs are still new
  • The team of clinicians used for integrated programs consist of a physician, nurse, social worker, and some others who provide services tailored to the consumer
  • Home visits are a mainstay of social work services because they provide practitioners with a better understanding of clients’ biopsychosocial functioning
  • The techniques that are most effective with this category of people are: education, cognitive-behavioral interventions, and peer support

3. Consumers who are Homeless (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, pg. 154-155)

  • 20-25% of individuals who are homeless have serious mental illnesses (SMI)
  • Half of those individuals also have drug or alcohol abuse disorders, while also having substantial health problems
  • Homelessness is more likely to follow the onset of mental illness (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are the most common)
  • The assertive community treatment (ACT) team model is commonly used to seek out individuals living on the streets and deliver services to them
  • 76% of homeless children have a mother who has major depression, schizophrenia, a substance use disorder, or high distress
  • Almost 50% of the children in homeless shelters show symptoms of depression and anxiety (1/3 meet the criteria for clinical depression)
  • Homeless shelters employ social workers to provide mental health services to adults and children, or social workers from mental health agencies may come to shelters to assist them

4. Military Personnel and Their Families (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, pg. 155)

  • Military personnel and their family face many stressors that puts them at risk for dysfunction including: moving often, adapting to living in other countries, episodic or long separations, and fear of death or disability during wartime
  • Many military personnel (even in combat) experience post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Social workers provide services such as child abuse, spousal abuse, alcohol and drug problems, and post-traumatic stress disorder
  • The Department of Veteran affairs provides mental health services that employs a substantial number of social workers




DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s