Stress and a lack of infrastructure and support are taking a heavy toll on social workers fighting methamphetamine (tik) addiction among adults in rural areas, according to new research findings.
STRESS and a lack of infrastructure and support are taking a heavy toll on social workers fighting methamphetamine (tik) addiction among adults in rural areas, according to new research findings.
“They experience burnout due to a lack of infrastructure, insufficient personnel, a lack of the necessary knowledge and skills, as well as unrealistic expectations regarding the services they have to render,” said Dr Hannelie Krige, who recently obtained her doctorate in Social Work at Stellenbosch University.
Krige, who is a social worker herself, researched the challenges faced by social workers in rural areas who render services to adults with a tik addiction. She interviewed some of these social workers and held focus group discussions.
According to her, rural social workers struggle to render the necessary services (eg prevention services, early intervention, and statutory and after-care services) because the demand is simply too high.
“The overemphasis of procedures, non-governmental organisations’ dependence on the state for funding, and the way in which funding agreements regulate their activities further hamper social workers’ task.
“Physically, social workers feel threatened by the behaviour of adult tik addicts. Psychologically, they feel inadequate in their service delivery because they do not have the necessary knowledge and skills to address the complex phenomenon of tik addiction among these adults effectively.
“Furthermore, there is a lack of enough service providers to render services to these adults in a multi-disciplinary team. Co-operation between and co-ordination of these services are also insufficient,” Krige said.
The state and non-governmental organisations expect social workers to render an effective service despite all these challenges, Krige adds.
“All these factors contribute to many social workers abandoning the profession and consequently the failure of the service to tik addicts, their families and the community.”
Krige recommended the establishment of a multi-disciplinary team (eg psychologists, psychiatric sisters and doctors) to render holistic and specialised services to address the physical, psychological and social functioning of adult tik addicts to assist rural social workers.
“Such co-operation and co-ordination can relieve the pressure on social workers and prevent them from feeling inadequate.”
Krige added that the social workers should be equipped with skills for trauma counselling and trained in psychosocial support and its relevance for service delivery to adult tik addicts.
According to Krige, supervision was also important for the ongoing professional development of social workers, and she called for local drug action committees to be strengthened.