World Social Work Day 2024: Spotlight on Patrick Anyomi

Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in News, Social Work on 20th March, 2024

Headshot of Patrick Anyomi, Deputy Team Manager, and the World Social Work Day 2024 logo"I realised what we took for granted in Ghana (in working with older people in the UK) as families and friends were much knitted together there, so there was not this level of loneliness that was evident here."

Continuing our celebration of World Social Work Day 2024, we spoke to Patrick Anyomi, Deputy Team Manager in the Exeter University Community Mental Health Team (CMHT). Patrick shared insights into his career journey, his challenges, and what he is most proud of.

What is your work history?

My work history is very interesting whenever I look back. When I say looking back, I am not sure how far back I should go. But for sure I will take this as far back as my work in a rehabilitation centre in Ghana, my motherland. This was a centre that looked after people in the community who were struggling with their mental health and others discharged from psychiatric units in the country. This involved monitoring of medication, occupation, and the role of the Christian faith in the lives of the Christians at the centre and counselling.

The very unique thing about the centre was the very limited recording that was needed or done to achieve results for residents, their families, and carers. In addition to the many things that brought about recovery was the therapeutic relationships with the clients. This was so powerful I wondered how this could be quantified or qualified and given the true place in mental health work. Occupation equally helped very much and a sense of community was no doubt an essential part of any individual’s recovery journey. I enjoyed helping at this centre in my role as aftercare coordinator. I took part in all the different elements of any individual’s recovery journey. A lot of what brought me joy in this role was about the recovery journey for all involved. Certainly, it was always a journey, and the perseverance and endurance from all stakeholders meant so much for me. We were able to take medical students and nursing students on placement and introduce them further to the rehabilitation side of recovery, which is as important as the medical.

As the aftercare coordinator, it was more about helping integrate people back into their families and the community as a whole. The families may have been hurt, misunderstood, and therefore bringing them back together where possible. I was involved in a lot of family education around mental health awareness and managing stigma of mental illness from society. It was important for me to respect and embrace diversity within this context and deal with the many perspectives of worldviews and reality. Communication and listening particularly were my main skills that were so valuable for people. It was a very happy part of my career, and I do miss it no doubt.

Moving to the UK in the late '90s brought to me the cultural shock and differences. My working life memorable to share here is my role as a volunteer coordinator for a service working with older people. It was basically recruiting volunteers to befriend older people in the community and support them as best as possible. This was dealing with social isolation and providing information that might help the older people continue to find a sense of fulfilment in their lives. In doing this, I came across very wonderful people wanting to volunteer for many reasons. I realised what we took for granted in Ghana as families and friends were much knitted together there, so there was not this level of loneliness that was evident in the UK. I learned so much from the volunteers as well as from the older people.

After this role, I went on to work as a mental health advocate. I did this in the community, low secure, medium secure, and in the maximum security hospital. This was a huge eye-opener for me in relation to the level of inequality, prejudice, unfairness, and discrimination in society. The most powerful and shocking revelations were around the institutional discrimination and structural/systemic discrimination that is very much entrenched in society and very difficult to undo due to so much power imbalance. In some situations, this was due to lack of knowledge and some cultural awareness. On a very small scale, I was able to disentangle this to some extent through education and training. This helped in providing a better service for people who were suffering from mental illness or/and drug/ alcohol problems. It was also quite revealing for me to become aware more and more of how blind the society can be towards inequality and despite how much has been achieved, what more is left to be done. Being a mental health advocate can be a lonely place but the service users that I worked with became my family and friends very quickly, and doing this job for 11 years I always found meaning and a sense of purpose in my faith gifted me. Overall I enjoyed this role such that I was able to set up patients’ groups and carers, families and friends groups that became very instrumental in shaping services for the best too. I came to the conclusion therefore that as long as all stakeholders are involved as much as needed, goals are easier to achieve for organisations no doubt.

What drew you to social work?

Regarding what brought me into social work, I will say it is more of a dream where I saw myself having to help someone who needed my help. My reluctance to help ended me in a dangerous situation. So waking up from the dream I accepted I had to dedicate myself to social work in mental health. At the same time I have always been keen helping others, plants, animals and ants even from my childhood. Thus being selfless has been innate in me even when it is most difficult and it has always been the source of joy and meaning in my life.

What do you like about your job role?  

I really love the recovery model in practice, seeing people making the best of their lives at their own pace.

What are the challenges for you and your team?

Currently, the challenges for me and my team involve the collaborative work that needs to be done to ensure the students we work with receive a safe and effective service, enabling them to successfully complete their studies.

Reflections on your last year in social work and what are you most proud of?

Taking on the role as deputy team manager and consolidating it. For some reasons, for years, I never could see or imagine myself in management, but all of a sudden I feel and think I can contribute more to my organisation than I thought. I am really keen to do so with all the education, experience and values that I have at this point in my career.

What changes would you like to see for social work in the organisation?

Looking at the organisation, I am sure social work can be used more to achieve our goals. I would like to see the profession contributing equally and workers being given equal opportunities in training, education and higher management roles, so our wealth of contributions may impact on the service provision overall. There may be need for more funding for social work research by social workers for the future.