Stories of Survivors Matter But So Do The Numbers

My thoughts ahead of International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day …

Rensselaer County Suicide Prevention Task Force

Next Saturday, November 18, 2017, is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.  This a day for those to gather and remember loved ones we have lost to suicide. It was once thought the for every death by suicide, six people were effected. Renowned suicidiologist Ed Schneiderman famously made this estimate.  Since then data and science has helped up come to greater understanding of how many people are effected by a suicide.

This past week was the International Suicide Research Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada. Part of the summit was dedicated to the impact of suicide on communities.  Dr. Juile Cerel presented research that expands on a growing body of evidence the impact of suicide has. That those who felt the strongest impact to the loss, this  was more likely to have depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, prolonged grief, and suicide ideation.

In addition to this, a review of 18 studies…

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What is An API and Why It Matters to Social Work

Technology is making the world shrink and this is good thing for social work.  The more we can use technology to increase connectivity, the better.  Technology between this blog and other apps and services exists but quite honestly I have no idea how this works.  My interest in technology has lead me to want to learn a little more.

It turns out the “secret sauce” is what is called an API or Application Program Interface.  Googling information about this was quite overwhelming but I highly recommend your take the little under four minutes to understand what API’s are via  this MuleSoft video ….


You might be wondering, what does this have to do with social work? While some might be figuring this out and some might be tuning out a bit. You might be thinking, there is no way I am going to be programming. It’s an important bit of information technology we should, at best, be simply aware of.  To ponder how things can connect and this code can be plugged in to shrink the world is important. Social work should be a voice in developing these solutions.

The next level might be (where I am) is how to you get disparate systems within social work, healthcare, etc… to talk to each other?  Well… it gets complicated.  As a care manager there are three systems I enter data into. There is a medicaid database for enrollment, one for an initial assessment, and one for the electronic health record. The only one way connectivity between the three is the enrollment database “talks” to the EHR a bit.  But the initial assessment (about 50 question check boxes updated every six months) doesn’t talk to either.

These barriers seem to be at the state and regulatory level (way above my pay grade).  These are the things program designers and regulators should be thinking about. It is my experience they are not. As the MuleSoft video points out how can we create “butlers” or “concierges” between these systems. I would like to re-frame it and say that desperate electronic systems need social workers.

One of the companies that specializes in increasing connectivity between healthcare systems is Redox Engine. Earlier this week I ran across their blog post which talked about the unique challenges of creating API’s for connectivity.  If we are talking about HIPAA protected data then systems need to develop legal and security understandings.  There are other considerations such as narrowing the vast amounts of data between systems and make them usable for billing/clinical care.

Another project worth noting is Open Referral. They are attempting to “develop data standards and open platforms that make it easy to share and find information about community resources”.

These are conversations that social work should be at the table for.  We are oexperts in getting complex real life systems to talk to each other. We should be a voice in developing code to get systems to talk to each other.  So make friends with the people in the IT department, talk about barriers to connectivity. Get on the committees at work seeking to drive these solutions. Seek out people that are solving these problems. Be a voice for policy and regulatory changes.  Or for the really ambitious learn the coding yourself or partner with an information technologist to develop your own solution.

Technology continues to offer bright future for our work, however social work needs to be part of the solution. Having a butler between technology services is nice but having a social worker is better.



Everything You Needed To Know About Social Work In One Google Search

….Well… maybe…

The Google search auto-fill is often interesting.  There are often humorous examples posted on social media like…

I am not an expert on search but just a few observations from this. Google’s algorithm this is how people are talking about Charles Darwin on the internet.  This post was inspired by coming across this tweet…

I immediately started to wonder what people are asking social work can do…

Some amusing things in there but also some interesting asks.  Role clarification for social work is complex. The public often doesn’t always understand what we do. Sometimes even within our own profession we disagree what it is that we do.  However answering questions like “can we diagnose autism?” and “can social workers be school counselors?” can help the public come to a greater understanding of what we do. I also found “Can social workers be friends with former clients?” Not sure if this meant online or in real life but either way an important question.

Even more interesting was the search “Can Therapists…”

You can see some legit ethical questions (along with some silly ones). According to Google algorithms, these are the burning questions the public wants to know.  I would encourage you to Google your profession and ask what it “can” do.  It was fascinating to see how people are talking about it and the conversation continued on twitter..

This would be an interesting class assignment at the graduate and undergraduate level. On could go deeper into the search results and write about that.  Also if you are a blogger with writers block this may be good fodder for a post (very meta because you are reading this post now).  It may be helpful for organizations to craft a marketing campaign. Do a search “Can <your organization>?>

I also encourage people to Google themselves to assess what people could be saying about them. This is a good practice to manage your online reputation.  It is interesting how Google can tell a small but important tale about you, your organization, and your profession.

Would also like to hear stories of what other people have learned from Google searches. Please feel free to comment below, tweet me at @stuckonsw or also email