For the final part of our Social Worker Scholarship blog series, we sat down with Luna Malachowski Bajak, a social worker at The Christopher supportive housing residence. After two years of working as a case manager at our 350 Lafayette transitional housing program, Luna became one of NYC Department of Mental Health and Hygiene’s Mental Health Scholarship Program recipients and began studying for her Master’s in Social Work.
Here is her take on the challenging program, on being a social worker, and her advice to aspiring social workers.
What impact has the program had on you?
The program provided me with the opportunity to put theory into immediate practice. Working full-time while in graduate school proved to be emotionally and physically draining, but also incredibly rewarding. I strengthened my knowledge of social policy, psychopharmacology, counseling, and advocacy, honed my communication skills, and became more self-aware. I was able to draw parallels between the theory I was learning in the classroom and the practical work I was doing in the field. I have learned a great deal, and have continued to grow clinically while at The Christopher!
What does being a social worker mean to you?
As a social worker, I aim to make an impact and educate others both in my professional and personal circles. I am committed to raising awareness and challenge the stigma and prejudice that so many people attach to the homeless and the mentally ill.
Is there a particular case that defines the impact of your work?
I have had the pleasure of working with one particular client who in the last couple of years has made significant improvements. This client was hospitalized in 2014 for edema and mental health symptoms. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and lost 100lbs in fluid weight. Thanks to his treatment team, and a significant amount of coordinated care, the client’s symptoms and quality of life have improved drastically. The client is now enrolled in onsite Janian services, and as a result requires less medical or psychiatric intervention. He is engaged in the community and no longer isolated in his apartment, and enjoys attending tenant events and even fieldtrips!
What is your greatest takeaway that you would advise aspiring social workers on?
Graduate school helped me realize I had a growing interest in the problematic intersection of mental health and medical care. So I would advise them to find the parts of the work that they find inspiring, and embrace them.