Psychological distress, power and leaving care: a social justice approach


  • Yvonne Louise Hughes MSW (Q) candidate Sydney University


Social work aims to promote human wellbeing through “social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people” (AASW, 2010, p. 7). To achieve these aims, it is important to consider the various power dynamics within society. Much of the current research in the mental health field is examining the link between power imbalances and psychological distress (Johnstone et al., 2018; Morley, 2003). Understanding power, however, is fraught with complexities, and understanding power within a social work and social justice context is further complicated. The intersectionality of mental health, biomedical discourse, power dynamics and issues arising from transitioning from care (whilst acknowledging the young person’s experiences in care and prior to care) is similarly complex, and confusion around the social workers’ role understandably reflects this. This paper argues that if we acknowledge and work with the positive power that exists, we can challenge current discourses that utilise negative power, and together we can create better outcomes for care leavers.

Author Biography

Yvonne Louise Hughes, MSW (Q) candidate Sydney University

MSW(Q) candidate


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