Deadpool, Gaymers and Girlfriends at London ComicCon

10 Video Games for Gay Gamers

Being gay and being a geek are, you might think, quite different things. But sometimes these two aspects of identity collide, creating a wonderful spectrum of possibilities. London ComicCon 2018 raised the rainbow flag and became a sparkling example of one such space for the  LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community.

Glittery linguistic stereotypes aside, London Gaymers presented a funny, intimate and hopeful panel about LGBT gamers and the video gaming community at large.

They started with startling offline statistics from the LGBT charity Stonewall which found over 60% of university graduates return to the ‘closet’ and over a quarter are not ‘out’ at work. Conversely, the panel was comprised of Charley Hodson, Ashely Spindler, Izzy Jagan, and Nathan Costello all work in the gaming industry and all are ‘out’ in their workplaces.

So, how can we continue the good practice, and ensure that more geek workplaces are queer-friendly?  “We need people leading organisations to be supportive, to be open, to be kind most of all – from the top to the very bottom”.

Working in small firms, where one is known and appreciated as a person, was seen as a Good Thing with regard to sexuality representation. At some points, the positive storytelling had an almost bashful edge – perhaps a tacit acknowledgment that this is counter to the dominant narrative of hardships.

That is: It is much more effective if someone from a dominant (or privileged) position espouses the values and principles of equality. In addition to the usual impact of management/leadership positions, a privileged individual is not subject to a fallacy of vested interest when they promote equality. Allies have “access to cultural capital, and cultural power to change the world” (well said, Ashley!).

Doesn’t that sound just like a superhero power?

Of course, some gamers in online communities may need help to adjust their belief in the ‘post-homophobic era’. That era, sadly, is currently as much of a fantasy as a crocodile shooting out bananas from its Kart in order to trip up a pink-clad princess (ten points for getting the reference). It may seem as though LGBT persons have ‘enough rights’, but the sobering statistics say otherwise.

Whilst the London Gaymers panel was in agreement that true equality is on its way, it is still in its infancy. It needs nurturing, and time, and effort… and, yes, the occasional time-out. Ashley was candid regarding the online abuse aimed at her, purely for being trans, leading to necessary banning. Likewise for times that people need to shut their comments sections or step away from the gaming community’s occasional toxicity.

A soft hug of an idea to address this comes from Overwatch. The popular first-person shooter game translates unsavoury phrases into, for example, “It’s past bedtime. Please don’t tell my Mommy” and “I feel very, very small… Please hold me”.  A nudge into nonviolent communication – with humour.

Indeed, the voice actors who play Genji, Mercy, and Zarya noted in their panels that the popularity of the game it partly its inclusivity and diversity – not just within the game but within its community – “There is something for everybody”.

London Gaymers suggested the Overwatch model “holds people accountable” without necessarily stepping into the shaming, combative dance which can so often play out. Banning users from chats can ‘work’ in the short term – in order to remove hate or bigotry from online spaces – however, in the longer term, change will be created by supportive re-education.

Well, that, and visibility: the old adage we’re here, we’re queer still has its place. The fact of the matter is that gay people are game. “We support the industry, and the industry needs to support us too…. We deserve this respect – if we’re not getting it, demand it.”

There are, of course, different kinds of representation. It is not all about mere presence. There is the bells-and-whistles flounce of a queer archetype, whose one discerning feature is their sexuality. However, there is also the happens-to-be-gay character, whose queerness is part of ordinary – or extraordinary! – human richness.

We have seen this in television with shows such as The Wire, The Walking Dead, and Brooklyn Nine Nine. There are already games which allow same-sex romantic interactions, such Dragon Age, The Sims and more recently The Last of Us and (author favourite) Life is Strange.

The number of Gaymers who explored their gender and sexuality through The Sims (Nathan helpfully chimed in, “I’m gay, so I could make lesbians!” compared to actual lesbian Izzy, who unfortunately couldn’t) was cute to the extent of heart-warming. True sandbox play.

In short, as Nathan stated: “You can put gay characters in the game, and if the game is good, people will want it”. If an audience is interested in the story, the game will be popular.

However we must be careful about how we cater to online spaces: “It’s not a bonus if someone isn’t homophobic, transphobic, racist”. We must expect better from our online communities. Most importantly, “Sharing the positivity, enthusiasm, passion, and love we have, speaking up against injustice and misrepresentation, pulling people up to our level rather than going down to theirs” are all ways that the Gaymers think we can make a difference.

Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic Teenage Warhead, from Deadpool) (R)

Indeed, it isn’t just video games that are changing to represent audiences. Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic Teenage Warhead, from Deadpool and the more recent Deadpool 2) noted that she was respectfully asked by bigwigs (or biggish wigs) in the industry whether she wanted to keep quiet about her own sexuality, given the presumed response from audiences.

Brianna did not want to ‘keep quiet’ although she didn’t want to shout either. Her sexuality emerged in the public eye quite casually in a tweet which has been covered extensively elsewhere (not to be sensationalised as a ‘reveal’, mind). Responses have been supportive, and Brianna said that ComicCon 2018 had provided a platform for queer kids to talk to her about the importance of herself and her character in representing queerness in geek pop culture.

And it didn’t stop there. Not only is Brianna officially gay, but so is her character Negasonic, who was ‘outed’ in the same lowkey style. Ryan Reynolds – the characteristically ‘sweet guy’, the eponymous anti-hero, and co-writer of Deadpool 2–asked Brianna, “Hey, would you mind if we gave Negasonic a girlfriend?”.

(It is important, of course, to ask first).

Brianna claimed, with a wry smile, that she responded, “Mind?! I’m ecstatic!”.

And so, love of a feminine and lilac-becostumed variety struck the teenage warhead. Brianna discussed how they thought it would be more impactful if Negasonic’s love interest was mentioned, but ‘not a thing’. (This, by the way, has been considered by some theorists as the mark of ‘true diversity’; a celebration that neither erases nor exotifies difference).

When asked how Deadpool 2 covers such tender and sensitive issues amidst its swearing, sexuality and gratuitous violence, Brianna and Stefan Kapičić (who plays the well-mannered, gentle giant Colossus) said it’s because of the “Magic of Deadpool”. It’s the use of humour, the fact that these issues are treated as if they’re “Not a big deal”.

And it is magic. It’s the magic of fun, and fantasy, and play. It’s the fun about engaging in media that represents you – or gives you empathy to understand someone who is different to yourself.

It’s putting equality as a casual thread, not as a snazzy sideshow, the same way that the many queer vendors at ComicCon’s Comic Village market were just.. there. Not in a special LGBT section, but integrated with all the other talented artists. (Pride comics, and Joe Glass in particular, I have to give you a mention because you expertly encompassed the superhero realm with the adage, I didn’t see anything like me, so I created it. Allow me to share your creation.)

In short, pop culture is evolving, and much like an Eevee (ugh, too dated?) it comes with a range of elements. It is okay in the modern era to get your geek on. It is becoming steadily (or sporadically) more acceptable to get your gay on. And of course, at ComicCon, you can even get your gay geek on.

Call for the change you want to see – and if you can’t see it, be it. Rainbows for the win.

Girls Who Run the World at London ComicCon 2018

Geek culture has a rocky history with women. But now, women are rocking geek culture. Historically, women have faced invisibility (not the superpowered kind), exclusion, active hostility, violence, and sexualisation.

This is across video games (the communities surrounding video games), films, TV, and comic books – from sci-fi, superhero and fantasy genres. Geek culture does not ‘cause’ gender inequality. However, it does facilitate and shut down particular attitudes.

The stories we tell teach us who is important – and who is not. And now, women are taking charge of their own stories.

MCM London Comic Con

Orange is the New Black stars Tiffany Doggett (Taryn Manning) and Flaca Gonzalez (Jackie Cruz) spoke about the importance of centering women’s stories, particularly untold stories. The hit Netflix series focuses on a women’s prison, and the actors admitted that they have learned a lot about the conditions faced by incarcerated women during the filming process. There is also space to unpick gendered issues around race and class. “If you don’t see it, create it”, Jackie added, speaking of her extracurricular endeavours with music production.

Then, there were the wrestlers.

EVE  is a self-described “ground-breaking feminist-punk-rock wrestling promotion”: a pro wrestling group for women. ComicCon hosted a debut screening of Empowered, a documentary by Lea Winchcombe showcasing Rhia O’Reilly and Candy Floss. Unashamedly feminist and political, the documentary considers the challenges of being a female wrestler (stereotypes, naysayers and balancing home life), with the buzz of parading around the ring being “glamourous and outrageous”.

On being a role model for her daughter and others, EVE founder Emily Read laughed, “I am the hero, I am the strong one”.  They have opened up wrestling classes for women which build their confidence and self-esteem (irrespective of being novice, casual, professional or old hat). “Women have a place, women have a voice, and women kick ass!” she concluded. The author of this article may very well have shed a tear.

On a less physically exerting note, geek writer/actor/creator Felicia Day happily spoke about her work and creative projects alongside motherhood and her hair. Many members of the audience seemed to share with Felicia the same heartfelt and almost tangible importance of having a female role model within the industry to look up to. Felicia humbly acknowledged the praise and assured us that female representation in geek culture is changing. This was a repeated message at this year’s ComicCon – and a very believable one.

Photo Credit: GoGCast 156: Interview with Patricia Summersett and Victoria Atkin | Girls on Games

Voice actors from Pokemon, South Park (yes, April Stewart confirmed that Wendy is very well received by female fans) and Assassin’s Creed participated in discussions about their gender (of course, only as one element of the colorful spectrum of conversations).

Victoria Atkin and Patricia Summersett of the Assassin’s Creed games spoke about how “challenging” things can be in the industry – particularly to find female characters that aren’t one of the two common tropes of  “sexualised” or “butch”, but “somewhere in the middle”. They discussed wanting to be role models for women in a world where there can be little representation, with a standard gender ratio which appears to “almost compensate for having a female lead”. (Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy and Justice League, I’m looking at you – the good old ‘one woman in a group of four or five men’ trick).

Victoria and Patricia positively, and somewhat bravely considering how women can be treated for speaking up, critiqued their industry to a somewhat male-heavy press audience. These women want to be, and indeed, they are, changemakers – whilst acknowledging the hopeful message that, already, “It is changing”.

Away from the interview room in Comic Village, there was a whole host of women proudly showcasing their own work. This included everything from personal stories about one’s cat (and other pets), adventure tales, tea and romance, magic, fairies and fantasy, space and Japan. Worth a special mention in this mix was the interweaving of gender, sexuality, and race in the creations. Sexuality we may consider another time.

Olivia Duchess showcased a stall solely dedicated to beautiful, tender artwork of Black girls and women. Having been drawing since 2015, Olivia explained that “When I was growing up, I didn’t anyone who looked like me… I didn’t see a lot of Black characters,” (Susie Carmichael from Rugrats got a special mention). She continued, with a modest shrug, “I’m trying to be the change I want to see”, as though unaware of her brilliance.

The interplay of gender and race was also witnessed in other ways – for example, Letitia Wright (Princess Shuri from Black Panther), discussed the importance of  Black female presence in her film, not least the range of “strong female characters”. She agreed with an audience member, “The women were an amazing entity”, before going on to talk about the value of a “Disney Princess with cornrows”.

There was a woman so overwhelmed with emotion at meeting the badass Black Panther science princess, Letitia Wright, that she was trembling with joy. After a quick photo, she took my hand intently, asking: “Do you understand? Do you understand what this means for Black people?”

Her face was full of magic and the power of visibility. I don’t know how one heart held so much in a moment.

This theme was repeated by IvyDoomKitty in her panel on mental health with Janina Scarlett. She spoke about how she had never thought the representation of women was important in geek culture until she saw it. Before then, she was satisfied with the norm of the male superhero. Then she saw DC’s Wonder Woman: an unfurling, a stirring. A hunger revealed. As Dr. Scarlett said, in her discussion about seeing oneself in these stories, “equality sends a very powerful message that everyone is equal and everyone matters”.

I felt it too, this ComicCon. A sense of … something, resonating, muscular and powerful, yet somehow delicate and bright. The kind of visceral sensation that glows in your belly and makes you grab a stranger’s hand and ask them:

Do you understand?

ComicCon, I think you did understand. You gave women – all kinds of women – space, made us central and elevated our power.

Superwomen are here to stay. See you next year!

My Friend is a Superhero – The Story of a Free Children’s Comic Book About Diversity and Disability

Sometimes we need to be the change that we want to see in the world. Philip Patson – Creative and social entrepreneur, writer, comedian, human rights promoter, and award-winning diversity consultant – is the very definition of a changemaker. He is the Managing Director of Diversity New Zealand, an organisation which offers facilitated discussions, consultations, keynotes and workshops about embracing and working with diversity.

Philip, alongside psychologist Barbara Pike, and artist/illustrator Sam Orchard, have created a free children’s book, My Friend is a Superhero!. The story is about Jack, a boy who uses a wheelchair, and the story is told through his friend’s eyes.

Here at Social Work Helper, we’ve had the privilege of an exclusive interview with Philip, Barbara and Sam about their book My Friend is a Superhero!

Firstly, thank you very much for taking part in our interview! To start, could you please tell us about the origins of My Friends is a Superhero? How did the idea come about?

Barbara: The book came about as a result of casual conversations between myself and Philip while I was working as Philip’s EA for Diversity NZ.  I remember we were discussing children’s reactions to seeing a person with a disability compared to that of their parents.  For example, a child might see a person in a wheelchair and rush up to them to ask questions, or be shy and unsure what to say, or ask their parents rather loudly why that person can’t walk!!

Parents mostly seem to be quite embarrassed or not sure how to respond. However Philip’s perspective, as a person who uses a wheelchair himself, was that he would welcome and encourage children’s curiosity and learning.  He mentioned even finding it refreshing, since kids will typically jump right into a conversation about disability with no prior assumptions!

These conversations evolved into the idea for writing a children’s book to explore how their natural curiosity and openness might view the experience of disability.  I’m very nerdy and into superhero movies, comics and related media – and there is also an element in many superhero stories of the ‘hero’ having some kind of disability along with their superpower (Professor X from the X-men being the most well-known example).  So I had the idea of the child in the book viewing his friend, who uses a wheelchair, as being a secret superhero in his spare time – as a way of explaining his ‘special’ (or different) abilities.

Philip: I remember sitting at the lights driving home, talking with Barbara and the idea for the book was formed. I remember thinking how much easier it would be to write a book for kids, rather than adults, because, as Barbara said, there’s no need to “undo” assumptions in order to create a positive lens around function. Barbara’s perspective was so clear as well, given our working relationship, which made her perfect to lead the writing of the book.

The book centres on the idea of diversity. What is “functional diversity”, and why do you think it is important?

Philip: Functional diversity presents a more dynamic and constructive paradigm than the current dominant ones (for example medical or social models), to describe and change the impact of impairment and disability. It proposes different thought patterns, new language and constructive behaviour, reframing the distinction between “normal” and “abnormal” function as “common” and “unique”.

The ideology was inspired by my personal and professional frustration with the existing polarized ideology of human function, which fails to adequately describe the diversity of physiological and psychosocial function amongst people. It aims to provoke and inspire dialogue about our current paradigm of human function in relation to value and capacity.

Can you tell us about the process of creating this book together – what was is like, what were the rewards and challenges?

Barbara: The process of creating the book was remarkably simple and organic (but then, most projects at Diversity NZ are!)  I pitched the general idea to Philip, then we had a ‘planning and writing’ meeting ie: went to a local cafe for coffee and lunch!  We pretty much wrote the entire book at that meeting.  I remember there was a lot of ‘back and forth’ regarding the phrasing of different lines, but in the end we banged out something that we were both happy with.

The next step was illustrating – I’ll leave Sam to talk about the process of that.

Sam: The illustrations is where I came in! Barbara and Philip sent me the words, and I came up with some basic characters. I’d never drawn a wheelchair before, and there was lots of discussion between Philip and I about what type of chair Jack would have – and to make sure it didn’t look clunky or antiquated.

After we had the characters set out we all met up for about half a day, with a big whiteboard, and went through making thumbnails of how we wanted each page to look. That’s where the little pukeko idea came from – we wanted to include some fun moments that went beyond the text, and have a New Zealand flavour to it, so the pukeko was perfect.

Barbara: And the final step was finding the funding to publish.  We used PledgeMe – a NZ version of Kickstarter – and thankfully were able to meet our funding goals.  Philip, do you want to talk a bit about Duffy as well?

Philip: During 2012 I did the Leadership New Zealand programme. I met the Manager of Duffy Books in Homes, who provide free books to over 100,000 New Zealand children, three times a year. Linda loved “My Friend is a Superhero”, so we donated copies and I went to several schools to talk to kids about the book, disability and diversity.

Barbara: In terms of challenges there really weren’t too many.  We initially had another person volunteer to illustrate but it didn’t quite work out as we had different ideas about what we trying to achieve with the book.  Then we discovered Sam, who works professionally as a comic illustrator and whose drawings are incredible and really brought the story to life.  Figuring out how to raise the money to publish was probably the other big challenge.  We initially went down the route of applying for funding grants, but eventually stumbled upon crowdfunding – which was still a relatively new thing at that time, and luckily had great success with it.

Overall, I found writing and publishing this book to be a hugely rewarding process.  It was great that a little idea I had got turned into a reality, and that it was well-liked enough for people to crowdfund the publishing of it.  It  also amazing to know that physical copies went to so many homes and schools.  Again, working with both Philip and Sam is always wonderful and organic and easy.  Philip is someone who would take this idea and say “yep, let’s do it!” which is a great quality to have in a boss.

What factors did you have to consider when designing the character of Jack?

Barbara: We wanted to make Jack’s disability as “true to life” as possible.  That is, not to show him as an amazing kid who is good at everything, or as a kid having a terrible time of it – but to show him as a real kiwi kid, facing the ups and downs of growing up (and who happens to have a disability).  I also remember a lot of conversations about how his wheelchair would look!  We wanted it to be as accurate as possible, as any children (or parents) using a wheelchair would know exactly what we got wrong!

Philip: And while we wanted Jack to be “real”, we also wanted him to be cool, too, We hoped that, after reading the book, kids would be curious about functional diversity and feel freer to engage with kids who live with unique function.

The book shows Jack and his friend in a range of settings and scenarios. How did you pick these scenarios, and why?

Barbara: We picked scenarios that would be typical for school-age kids in NZ and tried to show both the positive and negative aspects of what life might be like for a child who uses a wheelchair.  So when walking home from school being able to power fast up the hill might be an advantage.  But having to leave class for lots of therapy appointments might not be so great.  We also wanted to be as inclusive as possible.  Jack goes to school, is in class, and plays at lunch with his friends, who don’t use wheelchairs.

Philip: A lot of the scenarios were based on my own experiences at school. I was lucky to be outgoing and confident as a kid, so I was pretty well included. I didn’t play on skate ramps and things, but I did have good networks of friends and mostly enjoyed school, at Jack’s age anyway!

In the story, we see Jack supporting others, such as exercising patience and helping his friend to study. What is the significance of showing these aspects of Jack?

Barbara: We didn’t want everything about Jack to be about his disability, so we tried to show other positive qualities you would want to see role-modelled in a kids book, like Jack helping his friend with maths in the classroom.  We wanted Jack to be seen by his friend as more than his disability (even though that was the main focus of the story) and of course for us to find out in the end that in fact Jack sees his friend the same way.

Philip: I think “disability” is portrayed so negatively generally. It was really important to show Jack in a reciprocal relationship with his friend, rather than perpetuate myths that having unique function makes kids needy and helpless.

The front cover of the book is beautiful. Could you tell us more about  how this design came about, and why it was selected?

Barbara: Sam, please take it away : )

Sam: Oh thanks! In terms of style Philip and Barbara pretty much gave me free reign to do what I wanted. As I talked about earlier, getting the type of wheelchair for Jack right was a big one, but everything else just flowed quite easily.

We wanted the colours to be bold, and the style to be simple and child-like so it was easy to absorb. This was the original sketch we did on the whiteboard…

Which became this:

And then this:

As we know, parents will often choose their children’s books or read to their child. What do you think makes My Friend is a Superhero useful for parents as well as for children?

Barbara: Parents (and society as a whole) shape how their children learn about the world, as well as their attitudes and values towards others, as they grow up.  We wanted to encourage more open conversations between parents and their children about disability, as well as challenge some negative stereotypes.  Disability is something with both positive and negative aspects – it’s just another human experience and we will all have a range of physical (and other) function throughout our lives.  We wanted to promote the idea of people in general (not just children) approaching others with curiosity and openness to difference.  We hoped that if parents were reading the book to their children, that it might encourage broader conversations about diversity and perhaps change how parents think too.

Philip: We’ve had tremendously positive feedback from kids and adults alike. I think people, in particular adults/parents, find the book refreshing. There’s something about the story’s simplicity and Sam’s vibrant images that reframes an issue that we really struggle with as a society.

My Friend is a Superhero is available online for free (although a hard copy can be purchased!) – what led to this decision, and what impact are you hoping this will have?

Philip: I read the other day that selling kids’ books, especially a first one, is incredibly difficult. We’ve sold a few but mostly we’ve given them away. As it was crowdfunded so generously it felt right to pass on the generosity. Adding the free download is, hopefully, another way to get the book out there. It’s doing no good unless it’s being read, after all!

The book is intended to promote a child’s “natural curiosity”. How do you think people usually respond to a child’s curiosity, and how could we do things differently?

Philip: Kids are so naturally curious and as they grow, that curiosity is often replaced by adults’ fears of difference, getting things wrong, sense of guilt and shame etc. “My Friend is a Superhero” intentionally shows that it’s ok to be curious and that uniqueness is interesting. As adults we need to be more aware of our fears, work through them and be intentional about not passing them onto our children.

And of course, I must ask – Who are your superheroes, and why?

Barbara: I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that before!  I work now as a Psychologist, and to be honest, my superheroes these days are the everyday people I work with.  People who are facing (or have faced) overwhelming difficulties in life and work so hard to overcome them…many even going on to start groups and programmes, or volunteer, to help support others who are struggling.  I find anyone who faces huge challenges in life – be it mental health difficulties, disability, abusive relationships, poverty or other unhealthy situations – and battles through to make a better life for themselves, to be an inspiration.

Sam: Oh! Gosh! Yeh, I’m on the same page of Barbara – my kind of superheroes are not necessarily the ones who you would know the names of. I’m always in awe of people who work steadily in the background, and who don’t need a lot of praise (because I love praise and I’m trying not to rely on it too much!) I think people who persevere, are resilient, and are generous are pretty phenomenal too.

Philip: I’m going to be shallow and just say my favourite superhero has always been Spiderman!

Is there anything else you think we should know about My Friend is a Superhero?

Barbara: Not that I can think of!  The book was published a few years ago now, so it’s lovely to remember the creative process behind it and know that it still generates excitement and interest : )

Philip: I agree – it’s been great to reminisce. We keep saying we should do another one. We should stop saying it and do it instead!

How Do We Measure Therapeutic Outcomes?

four-simple-5

The phrase evidence-based practice is now common parlance in mental health care. The call for using evidence-based practice can be heard across psychology, social work, psychiatry, occupational health, and a range of other professions.

Often, such “evidence” consists of data from randomised controlled trials (RCTs), non-randomised trials, case studies, qualitative focus groups and interviews, and a range of other sources.

Nevertheless, many decisions in mental health care, whilst being informed by such an evidence base, rely heavily on clinical judgment. As noted in Daniel Kahneman’s seminal Thinking, Fast and Slowclinical judgment is often not as reliable as it seems, especially for longer term outcomes.

Then, there is also a need for practice-based evidence or the collection of evidence during on-the-ground work to measure outcomes for the individual client.

Unfortunately, the simple removal of a psychiatric diagnosis (e.g. “You are no longer depressed”) cannot be considered an accurate measure of change for an person. For decades the unreliability of psychiatric diagnosis has been flagged as an issue and unfortunately not much has changed. Indeed, such diagnostic categories are not even considered scientifically valid.

However, a range of scales and measures are available to monitor change for various problems. One example might be the Internal States Scale for someone having problems with fluctuating mood, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale for someone who is feeling low, the Self-Compassion Scale for someone who is trying to develop compassion, or power mapping to measure someone’s level of personal control within their lives. Positive aspects of a person’s life can also be measured, such as user-defined recovery, quality of life, empowerment, and subjective wellbeing to name but a few.

Outcome measures can also be more tailored to the individual. Subjective units of distress, personal goals (with a clear 1-5 scale of how close one is to achieving the goals), subjective blob trees, and six part stories are other ways to measure the impact of interventions. In fact, such personalised measures may be more meaningful than a set of standardised questionnaires, which can often lack context.

Measures can be helpful to see whether an intervention is staying on track, and may give permission to discuss topics that are difficult to bring up (such as sex drive or self-harm). It may be that the professional has missed something in their questioning, which is revealed through outcome measures to be important to the client.

Clients may also value being able to review their progress, and there are some indications that the use of outcome measures can improve therapeutic outcomes. Outcome measures may additionally support the clinician to reflect upon their work, and ensure that the clinician’s views on progress match the client’s reality.

There are, however, some concerns about using outcome measures in clinical practice. This might include burden, time, and paperwork for both client and professional, concerns about relevance and helpfulness of scales, and also concerns that any outcome scores may be misused by others. An over-reliance on scales to measure outcomes may not be helpful or meaningful. Additionally, scales can only see a change in the concept that they are measuring – for example, a mood scale may miss out key components in somebody’s social life.

As such, like any clinical tool, outcome measures should be used in a person-centred fashion. Good clinical practice involves firstly using an outcome measure that is relevant to the individual. If a person who feels tired and low wants to get out more and make new friends, it may be helpful to set goals related to increased activity (rather than, say, simply using a scale of how low the person feels).

Secondly, an outcome measure should be feasible for the person. For some people, an hourly record of their day might be too much to ask, whereas for someone else it may be helpful and motivating. This can be subject to some experimentation and playfulness – the measure does not have to be “right” the first time but can be considered a work-in-progress.

Thirdly, an outcome measure should gather enough information to be useful, and no more. After all, measures take time and effort to fill in, and it is not ethical to ask someone to collect information that will not be used.

Finally, the progress of outcome measures should be shared and discussed with the client. They should not be collected simply for the sake of the professional, or the service, but should be a meaningful addition to any therapeutic intervention.

Therefore, whilst the concept of evidence-based practice is well known in mental health care, there is an important role in collecting outcome measures as part of everyday practice (practice-based-evidence). As long as such measures are focused on outcomes that are meaningful to the client, and are used in an ethical and person-centred fashion, they can prove a valuable – if not integral – part of clinical work.

Shared Humanity after the Orlando shootings

lgbt-orlando

“We’re all human” is, we hope, a common attitude. It stems from empathy and solidarity –  the idea that, despite our differences, we are all the same.

However, whilst it seems like a positive attitude on the surface, the well-intentioned “We’re all human” is more complex than this. It has a darker underside of erasure. Used improperly, the suggestion that everybody is the same can be used to minimise problems that are faced by particular communities under the guise of common humanity.

Examples of this can be seen in responses to attacks on a range of oppressed social groups. It can be seen in the All Lives Matter response to the Black Lives Matter movement, and in the need for a #YesAllWomen reaction to #NotAllMen -a hashtag which was initiated after a man instigated a mass shooting in Santa Barbara due to a lack of sex from women. Now, it can be seen in the aftermath of the horrific homophobic attack in an Orlando club.

Take a recent television interview about the Orlando attack, whereupon journalist, activist and LGBT person Owen Jones stated, “It is one of the worst atrocities committed against LGBT people in the Western world for generations, and it has to be called out as such”.

The immediate response to this statement was, “Well it’s something that’s carried out against human beings isn’t it”. Later, when Owen attempted to reiterate, “This has to be called out for what it is. It was an intentional attack on LGBT people”, the interviewers again responded with “On the freedom of all people to try and enjoy themselves”, (italics added).

In this case, the worst LGBT attack in the Western world for generations is being dismissed with “We’re all human” rhetoric. The intention of the reporters was not to show empathy and share in the grief of this attack, but to dismiss the fact the attack was targeted against LGBT persons specifically.

As such, we cannot use ideas of common humanity uncritically. There needs to be some balance between “We are all people” but also, “We are not the same, and that is to be celebrated. Because we are not the same, I will listen to your struggles, which may be different from mine.” That is, being the same and being different are not mutually exclusive.

There are lessons to be learned here – not just about social injustice, the links between prejudice and violence, and how not to conduct oppressive media interviews, but also about how professionals can work with people who are from such oppressed groups. Particularly, such wider societal issues have relevance to mental health.

Firstly, we can evaluate the extent to which we consider people’s distress in wider context. People’s social circumstances have a significant impact on mental health. Especially when we are working with ethnic minorities, women, LGBT+ individuals, and other such persons, we must consider why that person may be in distress, in addition to what is troubling the person at that time.

For example, if an LGBT person has beliefs that strangers are out to hurt them, how ‘delusional’ can we call those beliefs? If an unemployed Black man experiences moods of anger and intense need to act, followed by periods of deep sadness, to what extent do we attribute this to faulty brain chemistry? If a new mother in financial debt feels helpless, can we suggest this is down to rumination and negative thought patterns?

Taking these factors into account can help us to keep a person’s lived experience at the heart of our mental health interventions. It may also support professionals to maintain hope, because interventions can be realistic and appropriate to a person’s circumstances. A psychotherapist, for example, may realise that connecting with Social Services or getting in touch employment support is a key factor in recovery – rather than feeling that the therapy is failing if things are not changing.

Secondly, we should bring people together and empower them through common experience. Examples of this include Recovery Colleges, whereby educational courses about wellbeing are co-created and co-facilitated by peers with lived experience of mental health problems, ‘sober bars’ for people with prior alcohol addictions, and supporting people with learning disabilities to go to parties, festivals and clubs. Sometimes, hearing a “me too” from someone in similar circumstances can be a powerful intervention in of itself. Where safe spaces have been compromised, new spaces need to be built and existing spaces reinforced.

Finally, we can use common humanity to engage and connect with others. As professionals, perhaps there is a role for being an ally, and acknowledging the limitations of not having lived experience of a particular thing. One powerful way to honour our shared personhood is to say: “I am not the same as you in this respect, and I also stand by you”. Professionals could, in this vein, engage in campaigning for change at a wider level. For social groups which experience high levels of violence, wouldn’t preventing the violence in the first place be the best intervention?

These concepts fit into a less well-known psychological approach called liberation psychology. By bringing people together in dialogue, we can encourage them to take action to address their social situation. By being alongside people, we can offer our support and potentially our power. And, by speaking out, we can help to change the social world within which we are all trying to get by.

We cannot change the atrocities which happened in Orlando. At the same time, we cannot shrug off social responsibility for collectively supporting a culture of violence against LGBT persons with our silence. Yes, we are all human. But no, not all humans are treated equally. Let us tap into that common humanity and stand by those who have been affected – without erasing the reality.

Is Mental Health Really ‘All in the Mind’?

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Recently, the mental health world of the UK has been struck by quite a debate about the nature of “mental health.” The debate concerns a BBC series called ‘In the Mind.’ An episode called The Not So Secret Life of a Manic Depressive: 10 Years On focused on Stephen Fry’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder and his journey to maintain well being. Notably, the programme was entirely medical in its approach to understanding the experience of ‘bipolar’ and followed a similarly biomedical understanding of what we call post-natal depression from BBC documentary ‘My Baby, Psychosis and Me’.

Critiquing the medical ‘illness’ model of distress isn’t new. Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz wrote about this half a century ago in his work The Myth of Mental Illness (1961). Dr Szasz believed that ‘illness’ could only be a helpful metaphor. He also suggested that the appropriation of medicine-like understandings has created a ‘psychiatry’ of pseudoscience predicated on social control.

However, recent critics included psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff, clinical psychologists Richard Bentall, Lucy Johnstone and Rufus May, and journalist Robert Whitaker in their evaluations. They all urge caution on the dangers and limitations of the medical model, particularly the over-prescriptions of drugs which can cause social and physical damage. These symptoms include white matter shrinkage, sexual problems, weight gain, sleep loss, increased suicidality, hand tremors, dribbling, numbness and a loss of concentration. Additionally, there is evidence to support the theory that antidepressants aren’t effective except in very severe cases of distress.

Others supporting this theory have developed into social movements such as Mad Pride, the International Hearing Voices Network, and Psychiatric Survivors groups. According to the National Health Services website, the process of antidepressants isn’t fully understood and antidepressants are usually used in combination with therapy to treat severe depression or other mental health problems caused by emotional distress.

The BBC programme The Not So Secret Life of a Manic Depressive: 10 Years On was released despite criticism and nuance against a simple biological understanding of distress. Stephen Fry responded to the theory in an open letter written by aforementioned clinical psychologist Richard Bentall after the show aired. The letter sent to Stephen prior to its publication is compassionate, but it also summarises the evidence of social and psychological factors contributing to the phenomena labelled ‘bipolar disorder.’

Whilst Richard Bentall’s letter has been largely welcomed, it was about a specific programme. It was built around the president of the British Psychological Society, Peter Kinderman, who has suggested that the BBC as a whole should place more emphasis on offering a diversity of perspectives on mental health. This letter has now been signed by more than 1,000 people across a range of disciplines.

The British Psychological Society’s document Understanding Bipolar Disorder says the illness metaphor can be helpful for some people. It is one way of understanding distress and it may have an important personal meaning. However, it is not the only way of understanding individuals. A biomedical sense of distress can, for some people, be disempowering. It can suggest that they are internally defective, narrow the range of options and also encourage people to feel helpless. Additionally, as the BBC programmes have demonstrated, a biomedical understanding often leads to treatments with drugs, not social support or a listening ear.

As such, the call is not for BBC media to disregard medical understandings of distress, but to place them in their proper, evidence-based context. The scientific evidence base for medical models is arguably lacking in terms of its scope, validity, generalisability, consistency and its methods – much of which is explained in Kinderman’s letter. To uncritically present medical ideas as ‘fact,’ represents a bias in the way that BBC mental health programmes are presented.

This is not to suggest the BBC is being asked to offer alternative understandings in the sense of niche or counter-culture models. There is nothing niche about a psychosocial understanding of distress. It is not a radical idea to suggest that it is likely that difficult experiences cause or exacerbate personal distress, especially when this idea is compared to the dominant model of an underlying illness which cannot be physically detected and has no consistent aetiology, trajectory or mode of expression.

Such a biomedical documentary also does not represent the real world of mental health in the UK, whereupon multidisciplinary teams often work together to support a person as part of a full and holistic understanding of distress. It doesn’t include the crucial role of Social Workers and Occupational Therapists in supporting a person’s efforts to improve their outcomes and connect with their community. It doesn’t include the role of family and partners with their loved ones when actually couples therapy for depression can be more effective than antidepressants and doesn’t cost any more money.

There is robust evidence that trauma plays a significant role in creating problems with relationships, moods and unusual experiences. More evidence shows simple changes to diet and exercise can help alleviate sadness. Positive, fulfilling interactions with other people have a huge impact on well being such as mindfulness meditation and developing self-compassion changes one’s brain structure and assist with growing the brain’s dopaminergic soothing system.

As such, a solid biopsychosocial understanding of distress suggests humans are not simply walking minds but are embodied beings. So whilst distress is experienced partly within the body, it does not mean that those problems within the body caused the distress in the first place. Even if one takes into account social or psychological triggers within a medical model, there is still the assumption that a person’s experience is what set off the biological problem, rather than the embodied distress being the problem itself.

People should be aware of the range of different models they can use to understand their distress. This allows people to seek help which works best for them.

Using Superheroes in Play Therapy

family-books-superhero-leadWe all have our superheroes especially because superheroes have the ability to inspire, empower, support and occasionally save us. Sometimes, superheroes help us to save ourselves.

I have already penned some articles about the magical technique of Superhero Therapy, and how the concept of superheroes can be used in different psychotherapeutic approaches to support people who are in distress. However, that exploration was mainly about how we might use superheroes with adults in therapy.

What about using superheroes for children?

Many of the points that stand for adults are true for children. Thinking about superheroes – their lives, adventures, challenges, friends, powers and weaknesses – can provide a range of creative ways of working. This might include problem solving, being kinder to oneself, hearing stories of triumph over adversity, working out what one’s own superpowers are, and finding strength.

The narratives that children tell about superheroes might lead us to understand what they are trying to ‘work through’ (e.g. do they focus on battles, sex and sexuality, people being saved, when things go wrong, when the superhero has to lie about their true identity?). We might also wonder who the child identifies with (sidekick, superhero, police chief, villain), and whether the characters of which they speak represent either feelings, themselves, or other people in their lives.

However, one of the main differences between adult and child therapies is the difference in how playing is used as part of therapy. The organisation Play Therapy UK suggests that around 8/10 children with severe problems, such as emotional or behavioural difficulties, will show positive change after play therapeutic interventions.

Engaging in play, fantasy, and the realm of the imaginary can also make it easier to access and talk about difficult topics. In some ways, this may particularly true for younger people who don’t have the words, experience and knowledge to talk about things directly. Although, being an adult and having more experience is no guarantee that it will be easier to talk about things. Roleplays could be used to help children and their families take different perspectives, and understand each other differently.

Psychodynamic play therapy may simply be allowing a child to play with anything from a box of toys. This could (and probably should) include characters such as superheroes. Commenting on how the child chooses to play, without the therapist actively directing their play, can lead to useful insights about a child’s wellbeing due to the themes and ideas that occur during such play.

Children and young people may also use sandplay – arranging toys and items within the confines of a sandbox, to represent their inner states of mind. The work of Dora Kalff is cited in both the American and British-Irish sandplay organisations – her work is based on Jungian principles that the unconscious will guide the play. Of course, this is not restricted to children and young people, but sandplay is certainly a useful way to reach children particularly.

Filial therapy is one branch of play therapy, which focuses on the relationships. Parents (or caregivers) are seen as the main agents of change, and the sessions are often led by them. The therapist supports the parent in using skills that are similar to nondirective play therapy. The scope for using superheroes here is huge. Superhero narratives can support parents to understand and frame their children’s feelings, or it may be a way for parents and children to find something that they have in common. Using superhero-based toys may also open up a range of potential narratives to parent and child, as described above.

Theraplay®, another type of play work with children, “is a child and family therapy for building and enhancing attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and joyful engagement”. Play tasks have particular aims, and they are designed to develop particular skillsets whilst being fun for all. Theraplay® involves children playing games – with their families – which tap into challenge, structure, shared engagement and nurturing. Children’s favourite superheroes could be incorporated into how the tasks are explained to the child, or superhero-themed items such as soft toys, bubbles etc. could be used as part of the play.

Attachment-Based Play Therapy (ABPT) is a different (less researched) approach, which focuses on teaching children how to feel and experience emotion. It suggests that children should learn how to be accepting of feelings, become able to ‘attach’ to themselves, and take care of themselves from a position of compassion and kindness. In this way, superheroes could be used during play to teach a child how to express and accept their feelings. Examples could be drawn from how superheroes look after themselves, or what the person would say to their favourite hero if that person was sad or distressed.

In conclusion, superheroes have an important place in work with children and young people. Superheroes can fit pretty much anywhere depending on the person and the therapist. For younger people, superheroes can particularly serve to be role models, relatable characters, characters through which a young person can parallel their own experiences, and of course a way to build a rapport with their therapist. With these insights, perhaps more of us can go forth and prosper with the youngsters with whom we work.

The Social Poison of Gaslighting, and How to Deal With It

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The term gaslighting originates from a play/film called Gas Light, in which a man tries to convince his wife she is mad. He does this by changing her environment (e.g. dimming the gas lighting) and then telling her she’s imagining things.

As a psychological term, it is essentially a technique that allows someone to bully others by making someone doubt their own perceptions, memories, and feelings. It is used in cases as slight as passive-aggression to cases as serious as domestic violence, abuse, and sexual assault.

Gaslighting works as a poison – it is the victim’s doubts and mistrust of their own perceptions of reality that make the technique effective. That means that gaslighting is an excellent way of targeting someone with whom there is already a power imbalance (e.g. doctor or therapist and patient, teacher and student, adult and child, boss and worker, popular and unpopular).

Examples of gaslighting may be about brushing things off, pretending to get offended when issues were brought up, telling the victim that they were being unreasonable, outright denying that something was said/done, or claiming the victim has misunderstood (e.g. it was “banter”, deliberately over-reacting to make the victim feel silly, or suggesting that the victim is “too” (stressed, tired, sensitive). Additionally, gaslighters may bring in other people, who are ignorant of the whole picture, to shame the victim and emphasise the idea that it is an overreaction.

Usually, the events that constitute gaslighting are innocuous and small. It is not outright, clear abuse, but incidents that seem minor and build up over time. This means it’s easy to make the victim doubt their perceptions of what has happened, or how serious something is. By stirring up guilt and shame in the victim, or outright claiming something never happened, it is possible to do some pretty horrible things.

These small acts often progress like a trail of breadcrumbs. This progression of small things allows the perpetrator to “get a foot in the door” with their gaslighting, and push the boundary just that tiny bit further each time. By the time the victim realises things have gone too far, it may be too late.

Regarding pushing the boundary, an example may be a person in the workplace who is overly touchy-feely. The first time it happened they brushed past the victim when there was plenty of space. Then, a few days later, they may pass the victim a folder, brushing their hand against theirs. Perhaps they progressed and insisted on giving the victim a congratulatory hug for a minor achievement. Everyone in the office was watching and the victim felt unable to refuse the hug without looking like they were overreacting.

Such incidents continue, and the hugs start to occur in private places rather than in public. Yet, there is never any obvious problem such as sexual assault.

If the victim brought this up with the gaslighter, the person may retort that they are just being friendly, and suggest that the victim is arrogant to think otherwise. They may bring up the long history of hugging and suggest “It was never a problem before”. In the workplace, a gaslighter may bring colleagues in to publicly shame the victim “Have you heard this?”.

The key thing about this situation is that the first incidents were too small to bring up, because the person being gaslighted wasn’t sure what was happening. The first hug was done in public, and it was difficult to backtrack – and this leads the way to claim the victim is “overreacting, you were never bothered before”. This is especially difficult for women who are considered overreactive and unstable in the first place.

Gaslighting, aside from victims into unwanted situations, does insidious damage to self-esteem. It teaches victims that they have no understanding of people or of the world around them, that they can’t believe their instincts, or that they are helpless and vulnerable. It makes them feel they “need the support” and “can’t cope alone” which is another form of discrediting and gaslighting. Most importantly, the person being gaslighted is unable to trust their own feelings.

This is especially easy to perpetrate on people who already doubt their own feelings and perceptions, which may include those who have experienced abusive relationships, invalidating childhoods, women, children, and people with mental health problems,

To protect oneself, and others, against gaslighting, a physical written record is important. That prevents the victim from doubting their memory, and it allows them to track any gentle progression of behaviours. This also provides a record for anyone who is in a position to help, to support them in understanding and believing the victim’s situation.

Additionally, speaking to a trusted other who can provide an outsider’s view would be useful, if such a person were around. Especially regarding passive-aggressive bullying, or subtle sexual inappropriateness, it may be that others are also victims, or people who have the same emotional experience as the gaslighter. It is also crucial to identify someone with power who can provide support and help.

On an individual level, Gavin De Becker’s book ‘The Gift of Fear’ explains the importance of recognising gaslighting, and critically developing the skills of trusting one’s gut instincts, learning to be assertive (especially, but not limited to, women, who are socialised to be polite and gentle), building confidence, and being more forthright one’s wants and needs There are also free resources online.

One can also use simple statements such as “Can you explain why that joke is funny?”, “I never told you before, but I’m actually not a huggy person”, “I hear you say that it’s not on purpose, but it makes me feel awkward anyway, so can you stop it?”, “I know you think I’m overreacting but this is important to me. Is there a problem with changing your behaviour?”.

This is not at all to suggest that a victim is responsible for protecting themselves from gaslighting. The victim is not responsible for making the gaslighting stop. However, some of these ideas may support a victim in trying to recognise gaslighting, minimise the harm and seek appropriate support. Some of these individual techniques are impossible due to a power dynamic, or because of worries about physical safety. If it isn’t safe to use simple deflection techniques, then removing oneself from the situation and getting help from others are the best options.

It is important for us to recognise this process, in ourselves and with the people around us. Gaslighting’s key feature is invalidation. There is a crucial difference between a curious “Have you thought about it in this way?” and “You are overreacting, it’s not like that at all, you’re so sensitive”. It is true that an individual’s feelings may not always seem reasonable or understandable from an outsider perspective. Additionally, the way that one reacts to those feelings is not always acceptable (e.g. the valid feeling of anger does not make physical aggression okay).

However, feelings are real and they are true for that person. They are always, always valid, and nobody has the right to tell anyone otherwise.

Let’s all work together to put out those gaslights.

What is Your Super Power?

Social Workers and superheroes – what do they have in common? According to a TED talk by Anna Scheyett, they have more in common than you’d expect. In this article, I will look at and builds upon some of the ideas that Anna talks about as it relates to Social Workers and superheroes. I’m going to extend ‘superheroes’ to mean any fictional, fantasy, or sci-fi character who could be seen as a superhero.

Anna states that Social Workers aim “To promote and support individual and community wellbeing, and to fight social injustice”. So how well does this hold up? According to the National Association of Social Workers, the profession supports people across ‘all backgrounds’ and through some of life’s most difficult challenges. 40% of Red Cross mental health disaster workers are Social Workers. And, as Anna points out, Social Workers are there for people across the lifespan, from birth to death.

She frames Social Workers as being there to remedy broken connections between different levels of the system. They negotiate legal, educational, welfare, and family systems. Social Workers have to identify the difficulties in the relationships and connections, whilst communicating in a way that each level of the system can understand them. Essentially, Social Workers are multi-lingual. That’s a superpower in itself.

Their role among several layers of the system also requires the ability to emulate a wide range of different superheroes, depending on the situation. Sometimes that requires Professor X levels of knowing who is where doing what, and when. On other occasions, it requires being an investigative curious person, with powers of compassion and understanding on a level with The Doctor. Sometimes it requires fortitude like Lara Croft, speed and dexterity like Spiderman, or strength like Superman.

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Social Work is more than a job. Like superheroes, it’s a vocation; a way of life. And, like the best superheroes, Social Workers don’t ask for any treatment or consideration. They do what they have to do.

Most superheroes aren’t trained. They are born a certain way, they become a certain type of person through accidents or circumstances beyond their control. They are pushed and impassioned to save the world.

Unfortunately, this requires having the financial means by which to achieve a Social Work higher education course and not all potential superheroes get to train at the Superhero Academy.

It’s not a given that all superheroes will be empowering to the ‘little people’. They save the day, certainly, but not all superheroes will also provide the tools for people to support themselves. There are salient examples of empowering superheroes, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The most notable thing about Buffy is that she reaches out to the community around her. Whilst she is strong and supports others, she also receives support from them – her mother, her friends, her partners, colleagues, and her guide Giles who is like the policies and procedures which guide Social Workers. The power of community in Buffy usually keeps people well and safe. Social Workers, likewise, harness the power and support that is already out there, to keep people well and safe.

This is what Anna mentioned – the strengths-based approach to pulling people’s best from them. Another honourable mention for Professor X is required here, as he empowers mutants to teach, learn and grow. In her TED talk, Anna references Social Workers developing programmes for bullying and school dropouts, and Social Workers at higher levels of policy and management. In the X-Men world we can see mutants working at a range of levels – The Beast being in politics, for example, whilst others are in education, or on-the-ground activism.

It’s also possible that Social Workers are beyond being like most ‘superheroes’. Unlike many superheroes, Social Workers don’t just put the ‘bad guys’ away in prisons, for example. Social Workers also work within the prison system, to support the ‘bad guys’ and their families towards more positive futures. Of course, Ant Man is a notable exception of ex-con superhero. Mental health and wellbeing problems are rife within prison institutions, and Social Workers are equipped to deal with these added difficulties, without getting stuck in a ‘bad guy’ mentality.

Alongside Sherlock Holmes, Social Workers like their evidence. Anna mentioned evidence-based practice in her TED talk. Evidence-based practice can support people to make decisions with a greater likelihood of a positive outcome, and reduce the effects of human bias. This, however, has to be balanced with therapeutic humanity. Gilgun (2005) suggested that Social Work still has a journey to take in order to integrate the evidence base with practice.

There are also issues with the evidence base of the social sciences suffering from publication bias where null results are far less likely to be published, making it less clear which interventions probably won’t work. Finally, especially with psychological research, there is a risk of comparmentalising and segregating different ‘problems’ without looking at the whole person. However, being naturally social in origin puts social workers in a good position to integrate different types of social and psychological evidence.

A final note, however, should be made about the system. A number of superheroes try to change the system in which they live, rather than tackling the symptoms such as crime. Some have argued that an evidence-based epistemology, part of the medicalised system of physical and social wellbeing in the global West, undermines the human part of being a social worker. Others argue that Social Workers are covering the slack for governments that don’t care about their most vulnerable. Like all superheroes, there are mistakes where innocents get hurt. Sometimes this is under the weight of targets and bureaucracy. Sometimes it’s because the superhero academy accepted inappropriate candidates.

Pain, frustration, loneliness, stress, hard work, community, problem-solving, ethical dilemmas, joy, and triumph are part of any superhero’s repertoire of experience. And, like any superhero, it’s not done for their own personal gain, but because this world isn’t perfect and it needs someone within the system to support the greater good. As already mentioned, superheroes and Social Workers do all of this without expecting the thanks and kudos that are rightfully deserved.

So, let’s take a moment, then. For all the superheroes, both real and fictional. For all the people who have found their superpower thanks to a Social Worker. And finally, for Social Workers themselves – a special, multi-talented breed of superhero, stay empowered!

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