Risk, mental disorder and social work practice: a gendered landscape

J. Warner, Jonathan Gabe

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    Whilst the importance of gender for social work practice, risk and mental health has been recognized theoretically for some time, few attempts have been made to explore this area empirically. This paper presents findings from a mixed-methods study of social work practice in relation to mental health service users perceived to be ‘high-risk’. Findings suggest, first, that the concept ‘high-risk’ was gendered because the primary focus in social work practice was on the risks posed by male service users to others. Second, female social workers in the present study were found to have more female service users from their caseloads who had been defined as ‘high-risk’ compared with their male counterparts. The paper goes on to explore this apparent congruence between female social workers and female service users and highlights how the management of risk could be considered gendered because it reflects a worker’s (perceived) capacity in cultural terms to ‘decode’ the nature of the risks that their clients face as gendered subjects. The paper demonstrates how the intersections between risk, mental disorder and social work practice can therefore be understood as a gendered landscape. It concludes by highlighting the implications of these findings for social work practice and research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)117-134
    Number of pages17
    JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


    • risk, gender, social work, mental health

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