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The impact of violence and aggression on Social Workers

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Aggression and violence: Tangible crises for adult life.
    1. Understanding of ourselves and the social context of the colleague.
    2. Violence: Behavioral component of aggression.
    3. Aggression: The intention preceding violence.
  3. The victims of violence.
  4. A proportion of directed violence and aggression.
    1. Social work and social responsibility.
    2. The key concepts driving social work from its inception as a philanthropic movement.
    3. Media focused attention.
    4. The best defense for a social worker.
    5. The empathic understanding.
    6. A willingness to dive in and solve the problem.
  5. Understanding the crisis.
  6. Psychological defense to stress and anxiety.
  7. Conclusion.
  8. References.

?Violence and aggression pose threats to society and individuals at work or outside of work. The cost in terms of disruption, bad image, and absenteeism, and turnover, accidents at work, burnout and compensation are increasingly becoming apparent. Most importantly these threats negatively affect the overall capacity of organizations to perform and be competitive. The problem affects practically all sectors and all categories of workers. Eliminating the above threats is therefore a priority target for managers, employees and policy makers' (di Martino and Musri 2001)

This study attempts to look at the role of a social worker as both practitioner and client. Aggression and violence has become an increasingly common feature of caring work, irrespective of the context of the work: at home, in a hospital, within a residential setting, private lodging, or work base. The effect upon an individuals' ability to cope, their resilience, physical and mental health is traumatic and long lasting. It is a personal crisis that changes people and attitudes. Violence and aggression can happen to any worker, career, or service user, and may emanate from a variety of sources: client/service user, relative, friends or even colleagues.

[...] Social workers then cannot be a force for change and equality, but become part of the very system of oppression that they are meant question on behalf of their clientele. Marx (1965) noted how such a situation is predictable as part of a capitalist system of exploitation. Luckily perhaps, this is a notion that has been largely dispelled over the last quarter century as social work education has been opened up to a broad spectrum of people rather than relying on recruiting from an educated middle class. [...]


[...] Addressing the problems of social inequality as an intellectual exercise, expressing a tolerance of aggression as though that is sufficient to justify the act becomes a way of internalizing and intellectualizing feeling by suppressing emotion and downplaying the experience. crisis alone does not cause aggression, anger results from how people view what happens to them' (Ellis, 1977; Novaco, 1994). Understanding the crisis helps in coming to terms with related stress, anxiety and coping, the re-establishment of a psychological equilibrium that enables a person to once again engage and involve themselves with confrontational work. [...]


[...] Social Workers at Risk (1986) recognize the ?institutional violence' born of deprivation, instigated by many service users: ?Where the level of violence is particularly high, (care) staff must avoid slipping into a state of mind that attributes the cause of violence directly to the personal characteristics of the user' The best defense for a social worker is knowledge. Knowledge may consist of an up to date case history, liaison with other involved services (e.g. mental health workers or housing department), comprehending the complex social and psychological background circumstances surrounding a person or ?case', or support from supervision that enhances understanding and resilience. [...]

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