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Thursday, May 16, 2024

Making Mental Health a Priority: Social Worker and Catholic Charities Advisor Sweila Cardoso on Supporting Students’ Needs

For Sweila Cardoso, a social worker and advisor to adult education students at Catholic Charities’ English Transcultural Center in Brockton, no two days of work look exactly the same. Sometimes, her job is to support students with class material; other days, it involves assisting them with finding housing, helping them to secure affordable childcare, or ensuring that each student’s family has access to nutritious food for the week.

In any case, for Sweila, a successful day of work is one in which she is able to make others feel supported and deeply seen.

“My job is about meeting whatever the priority is in the moment – social, economic, personal, health, or education,” she said. “These are all important aspects of strong mental health.”

When Sweila is not mentoring students at Catholic Charities, she is working with the Boston Medical Center’s Boston Emergency Services Team (BEST), in partnership with the Boston Police Department; her role involves responding to 911 calls where there is a mental health concern.

“My job is to assess people on the scene who are having mental health issues to determine the appropriate response and ensure they get the care they need,” she said. “Our goal is jail diversion.”

Whether working with students at Catholic Charities or people in the community, Sweila said she is grateful to be able to give back to those in need.

Born and raised in Cape Verde, Sweila knows firsthand what it is like to try to assimilate into an unfamiliar country and culture. Beyond the challenge of the language barrier, Sweila said many of her students who are immigrants struggle with the transition to the U.S. and the separation from family and friends back home, especially during the holiday season.

“Many of the students are going through experiences that I went through,” she said. “Being an immigrant in a country and trying to find resources and fit in is not easy. Working with them is a good reminder of where I was then, where I am now, and how far I’ve come.”

Having received a master’s degree in clinical social work from Boston College, Sweila is a firm believer in the healing power of human connection. Forging strong relationships and having authentic conversations, she says, is a powerful antidote to anxiety, loneliness, and other common mental health issues.

“My hope is for there to be more resources out there for mental health,” she said. “I encourage people in schools and at the sites I work at to have more frequent conversations about mental health, so that we can spread awareness and better address people’s needs. Mental health should be a priority, all of the time.”

To learn more about Catholic Charities Boston’s Adult Education and Workforce Development programs, click here. To learn how you can give back and support those who may be struggling with their mental health, or other clients in need, visit our Ways to Give page.

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