Question Henry Social Sciences

Anti-oppressive practice and young male suicide

How can I link anti-oppression theory in social work to the social justice issue of young male suicide in Australia?

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Answer Internal Staff

Relationships of oppression can be established, consciously or unconsciously, where one participant takes on a role of inferiority and another adopts a role of superiority or dominance. There are several ways in which this type of relationship can come about in the circumstance of a social worker dealing with a young male who is at risk of self-harm or suicide:

  • Where the social worker is significantly older than the service user, this can unconsciously put them in a position of authority.
  • By virtue of their professional role, the social worker can be perceived as an ‘expert’, thus lending them authority.
  • The mental health issue might carry a stigma about the service user’s rationality, which may result in a patriarchal attitude from the social worker.
  • Where the service user is a risk to themselves and intervention is required, this puts the social worker in a position of dominance and control.

Where there is a risk of these types of power relations forming, it is important that the social worker employs Anti-Oppressive Practice. This involves remaining conscious of these social forces and counteracting them by empowering the client, involving them in decisions about their care, and communicating plainly – without ‘insider’ jargon.