For many years now, social workers have played an important role in the health and behavioral health of individuals and communities. Social workers bring their expertise of crisis intervention, advocacy, and educational programming to help make difference in the lives of those they serve. March is Social Work Month and in honor of this month, we have reached out to three amazing members of the MHA staff to ask them about their personal experience with social work, and why they chose to become a part of this important profession.

Rochelle Balan, Community Educator II

Like many social workers, there was a personal connection to my reason of going into this career path. One of the key reasons that I got into social work is to help individuals with personal experiences like myself. I am a daughter of a combat soldier who has seen trauma impact a person transition into civilian lifestyle. I remember what it was like to be distant from a family member for so long and I realized that there was support needed in this sector. I also wanted to serve as a role model for young people in the LGBTQ+ community in whatever capacity that meant. As I learned through my own research and connecting with LGBTQ+ folks, I noticed many had suicide ideation and early onset of mental health signs. For these reasons, I saw a need for providing a safe space for individuals where they could digest and decompress their stressors and barriers that they have faced. Most importantly, give them tools that are accessible and easily attainable that they can use consistently.

Currently, I am working on my master’s degree in social work at Widener University where my focus is on trauma. I plan to work on my LCSW in the near future.

Emily Vera, LCSW, Executive Director

Did you know that not all social workers are underpaid, overworked, and burnt out? These problems can sometimes exist, but social workers are a very diverse group of professionals who can be found doing all sorts of work in a wide variety of places. We have Bachelor’s degrees, Masters Degrees and Doctorates. We are connectors, therapists, educators, program builders, and policy makers. While some do help with public social services such as Welfare Offices and Child Protective Services, you’ll also find us in corporations, private practices, nonprofits, healthcare administration and much more. You’ll find us serving those of every age – from before birth at hospitals, birth centers and crisis pregnancy centers, to end of life at hospice programs, home healthcare agencies and nursing homes. You’ll find us at veterinarian practices, mental health treatment providers, schools, the judicial system, the armed forces, and so much more. 

This is one of the reasons I decided to study social work after college. I knew I wanted to do something meaningful where I could serve others, but what population and in what capacity, I had no idea. The core values of social work – such as service, the dignity and worth of the person, and integrity – appealed to my own personal values. I was fortunate to attend an excellent graduate program at Virginia Commonwealth University where I was exposed to many types of social work and able to get my feet wet in various areas of the field. I found my passion in social work as it relates to administration, policy and program planning, which led me eventually to the Mental Health Association in Delaware where I have happily been able to use my education every day in pursuit of creating a mentally healthier Delaware. My career is meaningful to me, I get to work with a fabulous team, and MHA is a great place to work! I am grateful to have become a social worker and to have grown my career at MHA over the past 10+ years, and I am grateful to the many other social workers I have learned from, worked with, and with whom I have enjoyed friendships – they are often some of the most down-to-earth, kind and compassionate, optimistic and dedicated individuals that I know. I would encourage anyone who has an interest in social work to explore further and to know that myriad opportunities exist in the field of social work.

Stephanie Reaves, Peer Services Educator

In the past six years, social workers have helped guide my path during some of the hardest moments of my life. The caseworker assigned to me during a psychiatric hospital stay who helped me with resources after I left was a social worker, my counselors at the drug and alcohol rehabilitation center that I attended in Florida were both Licensed Clinical Social Workers, and as I cared for my father, and watched his body decline from the cruel effects of Parkinson’s disease in 2018, it was a social worker from a home healthcare organization who helped us navigate the difficult logistics and complex emotions of palliative care, and ultimately hospice care.

I chose to pursue a career in social work because the social work values of service, social justice, and importance of human relationships align with my own personal values of kindness, compassion and empathy, and because I want to make a difference in the lives of people and communities. Growing up with my own series of disadvantages has given me the unique ability to relate to many people’s circumstances, and I want to work to address the systemic issues that preclude people from their right to pursue happiness.

I am proud to be a student at Bryn Mawr College earning my Master’s degree in Social Service from their Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. I am not only gaining important subject knowledge but also strengthening my voice to be able to advocate for others. I am looking forward to bringing my knowledge to MHA where I can further our mission of promoting improved mental well-being for all individuals and families in Delaware through education, support, and advocacy. I am proud to be a part of the MHA team, and proud to be part of the social work community!