What are the different ways in which clients of social workers suffer from the effects of inequality and oppresion ?

Social work concentrates on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society, focusing on the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems of living. Social workers help people function the best way they can in their environment, deal with their relationships, and solve personal and family problems. Social clients are defined as people who can be classified as “social outcasts”, “marginalized” or “vulnerable”. Social clients suffer from the effects of inequality and oppression. The most common forms of inequality and oppression are prejudice because of color, race, physical or mental deficiency, and prejudice towards victims of abuse, illegal immigrants, convicts who are reformed or out on parole, and discrimination because of a person’s sexual orientation (gay, lesbian or transgender).4  The three main ways (with their many branch effects) that social clients suffer from these forces are elucidated below. They are all inter-related.

           Unemployment:

Unemployment is the state of a person who is out of work, and actively looking for a job. It involves serious problems for the individual and for society as a whole. For the individual who suffers this state of unemployment it means loss of income. Prolonged unemployment may result in a loss of self-respect. For society, unemployment can lead to lost production, and in many cases, to criminal or other antisocial behavior.7c The unsteady nature of the country’s economy, accentuated by forces of inequality and oppression, result in a chronic, periodically widespread, presence of jobless individuals who need and want to work. The word “unemployment” became a national phenomenon in the U.S Depression of the 1890s and reached its nadir in the Great Depression of the 1930s when roughly 25% of the labor force was simultaneously jobless. The U.S federal government tacitly assumed responsibility for this problem of unemployment and passed the Employment Act of 1946. Still, this problem has proved to be unshakeable and difficult to solve even with the techniques propounded by the great economist J. M. Keynes.6 Unemployment in the U.K is one of the European success stories because Britain has always been a liberal economy when compared with continental Europe. In the year 1993, unemployment in the U.K labor force was 10.3%, but it then plummeted to 5.1% in 2002. Both sexes participated in the employment gain. The percentage of working-age U.K population employed in 1993 was 70.4% and this figure rose to 74.7% in 2001.8

           Substance Abuse

Social clients facing oppression and inequality try to seek escape from reality and this leads them to suffer from substance abuse. The abused substances can be both legal as well as illegal. Some of the most commonly abused legal substances can be purchased over the counter such as alcoholic beverages, tobacco, inhalants and prescription drugs. As for abused illegal substances, their possession and sale being forbidden by law.7b

Examples of such illegally abused substances are cocaine, crack, marijuana, heroin, hallucinogens like LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), PCP (phencyclidine), mescaline and ecstasy.7b These substances give a brief, exciting “high” which is invariably followed by a “crash” involving anxiety, depression and a strong desire to imbibe more of the substance to alleviate the effects of the crash.5 Unfortunately, these substances only change the brain’s perception of difficulties and problems. When the effect of the abused substance wears off, the user’s real problems always remain.7b

The average consumption of alcohol per head in the United States is 4.6 liters (World Book Encyclopedia, volume 1).  Alcohol tends to affect the control centers of the brain, making intoxicated individuals lose their self-control and behave in ways that are unacceptable to others. Prolonged, excessive drinking of alcohol may lead to alcoholism. Alcoholism, a disease in which a person has an overwhelming desire to consume alcoholic beverages, is the third major health hazard in the United States, after heart disease and cancer.7a  According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, U.K, deaths in the U.K from alcohol have increased 7-fold in men and 8-fold in women. Alcohol is responsible for up to 150,000 hospital admissions each year in England and Wales. In 1999, U.K recorded over 4,000 deaths from liver cirrhosis (the main cause of which is alcohol). Total deaths from alcohol in England and Wales currently number around 40,000 per year.Bowed by pressures of inequality and oppression, alcoholics believe they can make life bearable only by drinking alcohol. When an alcoholic stops drinking, a condition called “delirium tremens” (DT’s) may result, causing hallucinations, mental confusion, violent trembling and even death.  Alcoholics need a long rehabilitation to fully recover from their addiction. Alcoholic Anonymous (A.A.) is a worldwide organization of men and women who help each other solve their common problem of alcoholism. Women who drink heavily during pregnancy risk giving birth to babies

suffering from “fetal alcohol syndrome” resulting in them being abnormally small at birth, or having malformed organs, or being mentally retarded.7a

Drug abuse is the non-medical use of a drug that interferes with a healthy and productive life. The need for a drug becomes so overpowering to users that nothing matters except getting more.7b Sudden abstinence from certain drugs like heroin can lead to violent withdrawal symptoms like vomiting, muscle cramps, convulsions and delirium. Sharing of hypodermic needles used to inject some drugs is one of the leading causes of

AIDS.5 Cocaine can cause high blood pressure leading to a burst blood vessel in the brain and a stroke. The strength of some drugs is unknown and many contain toxic impurities.7b  Drug overdose is a constant risk, especially when drugs like heroin, cocaine and morphine are combined with alcohol or other drugs.5  Pregnant women who take drugs can cause harm to their unborn children.7b

Social clients who suffer from substance abusers are strongly associated with increased sexual activity including prostitution and this puts them at a higher risk of developing AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Due to their violent behavior, such substance abusers form a high percentage of those engaged in criminal activities such as muggings, theft, burglary, selling illegal drugs, and even murder.5 The main reason for being involved in such activities is to support their substance abuse habit. Most traffic deaths and injuries are caused by people under the influence of alcohol or drugs.7b

The effects of substance abuse by the social client can be felt on many levels: on the individual, on his or her friends and family, and on society.5  Substance abusers lose interest in work, family and social life.7b Such abusers’ mood and performance are affected, leading to poor work performance and marital problems. Their family life is disrupted. Substance abusers are burdens to society because poor workplace performance, traffic accidents and drug-related crimes are all serious threats to society.5

           Domestic Violence and Emotional Abuse

Inequality and oppression that make social clients suffer from Unemployment and Substance Abuse, add another branch of suffering as a direct result, namely, embroiling

them in domestic violence and emotional abuse. Abusers have low self-esteem and abuse so that they can get what they want.  Domestic violence and emotional abuse is not an accident; it involves one person in a relationship who uses a pattern of behaviors to control the other person. It can happen all the time or once in a while.4 Partners may be married or unmarried, hetrosexual, gay or lesbian, living together or separated. It can take the form of sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity), physical assault (actual or threatened), withholding money, intimidation, threatening suicide, putting the otherbperson down emotionally, stalking, and isolation (stopping a partner from holding a job or contacting family and friends).4

Research has found that repeated sexual abuse damages the “cerebellar vermis” (a key region of the human brain), causing an individual to become irritable and to seek solace from external means like tobacco, alcohol or drugs.3 Domestic violence victims can be of any age, sex, race, culture, religion or education. Although both men and women can be abused, most victims are women.4

Domestic violence and emotional abuse have tragic effects on children of social client households where they occur. A recent survey has brought to light the fact that each day in the United States, more than 4 children die as a result of child abuse at home; homicide is the main cause of such injury deaths; more than 78.7% of these children are less than 4 years of age, and perpetrators are usually the father, mother, or stepfather. Child abuse takes the form of neglect (including medical neglect), physical abuse, sexual abuse and psychological maltreatment.3 In the U.K however, the Department of Health Statistics revealed that between 1992 and 1997, over two-third of reports of child abuse by physicians and social workers were found to be false accusations. As a result, hundreds of families, especially those having children with Autism, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), were wrongly accused of child abuse, causing immense disruption, distress and harm to children throughout the U.K.2 These false accusations of child abuse carries heavy financial costs to the overstretched U.K health services, particularly the Social Services Department in the form of costs related to police, prosecution services, pre-trial custody, foster care, social work, legal aid, lost wages and expert medical examinations.2 Violence in the home is dangerous for children.

They feel helpless, scared and upset, many times feeling that the violence is their fault.

They develop many problems like sleeping trouble, school problems and trouble getting along with others.4 Research has proven that a history of child abuse increases the risk of substance abuse in adults.3 Even if children are not physically harmed, they may develop emotional and behavior problems.4

References used

  • Alcohol & Health: IAS Factsheet.

http://www.ias.org.uk/factsheets/health.pdf

  • Child Abuse by the Child Protectors.

http://www.childrenuk.co.uk/choct/oct2000/childabuse.htm

3)   Child Abuse Research Resource: Child help U.S.A

http://www.childhelpusa.org/abuseinfo_stats.htm

  • Domestic Violence Handbook.

http://www.domesticviolence.org/content.html

  • Drug Addiction & Drug Abuse: Effects of Substance Abuse

http://www.factmonster.com/ce6/sci/A0857826.html

  • Reader’s Companion to American History- Unemployment

http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/rcah/html/

ah_088200_unemployment.htm

  • The World Book Encyclopedia (International) 1992-6 World Book, Inc.

Volumes 1, 5 and 20 referenced consecutively as 7a, 7b and 7c

  • Unemployment in Britain: A European Success Story

http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/dp0600.pdf

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