Social Work Warrior Student Wellness: Keep moving forward

The past year has challenged all of us. From a global pandemic to devastating events highlighting racial inequity and a very contentious election – we've all had a lot on our plates. At times it has been difficult to concentrate and to figure out this 'new' normal, but we are here to help. Our Social Work Warrior Student Wellness series highlights student experience accounts acknowledging the physical, social and emotional toll of the last year, while at the same time recognizing the resilience displayed by our social work student community. Throughout the series, we encourage students to identify their stressors and challenges, acknowledge loss, be open to new ways to cope, invest in themselves, keep moving forward and remember the first step to helping others is helping yourself.

I am supposed to be helping others, but I need help too.

The past year has created new struggles and forced many of us to recognize our own personal difficulties in asking for help, confronting our shame and feelings of failure, surrendering control and acknowledging our need. In the final installment of our Social Work Warrior Student Wellness series, we acknowledge that everyone struggles including social workers, and as you launch the next year, know there is a way to move forward. The first step to helping others is to help yourself.

Will you ask for help when you need it?

My warrior story

I knew my senior year would be a challenge, but I definitely didn't anticipate the landslide of changes that came into my life. When I graduated high school, going to college wasn't even on my radar. It wasn't until a few years later after I had my children that I realized a college degree was important for me to move forward in my life. My oldest son was having a few problems in school and the social worker there was a huge help speaking to him, me and his teachers to work out a plan. After seeing first-hand the impact a school social worker could have on families and students, I knew that was the career for me. I spoke with our school's social worker and she advised me to check out Wayne State and thus my journey in higher education began.

As a single mom, I knew going full-time wasn't an option, so I chose part-time and slowly but steadily worked my way through the program. That meant I sometimes had books with me at soccer practice or at the playgrounds, but my Mom was able to pitch in and watch my kids while I studied sometimes which was a huge help. I worked part-time cleaning a daycare so my younger child could attend for free and also worked part-time at a restaurant cleaning while in school. Then COVID hit and everything changed. Suddenly my income was gone, my childcare and son's school were closed and my classes and field placement were virtual. Being trapped in the house with my kids bouncing off the walls while I tried to sit at a computer for hours on end and concentrate was not working out well. My Mom had always been my biggest supporter and now due to her high risk, we could not even see one another. I felt trapped, alone and stressed out. Then the money problems began.

Losing both of my jobs was a huge problem. I didn't have savings and needed every dollar I earned to help support my kids. I applied for unemployment and eventually received something after waiting for months, but by then I had lost my car and owed my landlord a bunch of back rent. Every day I was learning how to help others take charge of their lives and be an example of success even when you faced hurdles. So how could I need help? How could I go and stand in line for the same food and services I was sending my clients to? I felt like such a failure. My family said I should have just found a full-time job and college was a waste. I began to think they were right. Then I decided to talk to my advisor and see if he had any advice. He had been so friendly and open when I was on campus and thank goodness, he was just the same when we met virtually. He referred me to SWPS, a peer mentoring group in the School that really helped me connect to other students who understood how I felt. He also connected me to services on campus like the W Pantry and the HIGH program, which helped with food and utilities. At first, I felt a lot of shame in asking for help, but then I realized I need to follow my own recommendation to clients – "ask for help when you need it, that is what we are here for".

The past year has taught me some valuable lessons: I can't control everything and everyone struggles sometimes. Planning too far in the future sometimes still stresses me out a bit, but I have been utilizing the virtual job talk and writing tutor resources at the School so my resume sticks out in the crowd when I apply for jobs. I am really excited that I will soon be able to call myself a social worker and show my sons that anything is possible if you keep moving forward!

Resources

Warriors have your back

  • If you need confidential support, you can make a request online for telehealth counseling through CAPS. You won't have to leave your home to talk to someone, it is free for enrolled students and offers one-on-one, groups, workshops, and so much more. The School of Social Work has also partnered with CAPS to offer virtual private counseling sessions on Tuesday's and Thursday's from 4 – 5 pm – learn more via Get Involved.
  • The W Food Pantry supports students with food and toiletries to those currently enrolled in classes.
  • The HIGH (Helping Individuals Go Higher) Program helps financially stressed students reach their goal to graduate with housing support, textbooks and other school supplies, clothing, transportation, and child-care assistance.
  • Feeling under the weather? For student health care services to prevent and treat common physical illness visit Wayne State's Campus Health Center.
  • Are you looking for energy, financial, food, health, housing, internet and cell phone service, mental health counseling, transportation, unemployment, and water resources in the Detroit area? Check out our Detroit area community resource lists for Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.
  • Are you looking for a job or need help determining your career path? Visit our career resources page that includes our online job board.

Stay connected

  • There are a variety of student organizations where you can connect with fellow students and explore a passion.
  • Consider participating in Social Work Peer Support (SWPS), a peer-to-peer student-led learning community aimed at supporting Social Work Warriors through their academic and field education journeys. SWPS hosts individual discussions and group activities including virtual Sunday Funday's.

Academic support

  • Your advisor can be an invaluable source of motivation and support. If you haven't been seeing your advisor at least once per semester, make an appointment today at advisingworks.wayne.edu.
  • Are you looking for writing or research support? Learn more about our specialized writing and research coaches offering free support to Social Work students.
  • You are always welcome to visit faculty during office hours or email them to inquire about assistance with course deadlines.

Financial aid and scholarships

  • School is expensive and there are a variety of resources both in and out of WSU to help: start at the WSU Office of Student Financial Aid to see what options are available to you, check out WSU private scholarships which open March 1st each year, use the Michigan scholarship search tool for those who reside in the mitten state, ask your supervisor if your employer offers tuition assistance and lastly chat with your advisor – attending part-time may be a more affordable option and WSU offers an Installment Payment Plan.
  • Are you nearing graduation? Look into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which can provide loan repayment relief to those at qualifying 501(c)3 non-profit employers.