Social Harm Reduction Tops SWO Agenda

Social Harm Reduction Tops SWO AgendaSocial Harm Reduction Tops SWO Agenda

A 12,000-strong team of specialists, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists are operating under the auspices of the State Welfare Organization (SWO) with the aim of reducing social ills and the ensuing costs it imposes on the society, said SWO Director Anoushiravan Mohseni Bandpei.

“Our main strategy in targeting social harm is to incorporate specialized teams in various fields,” he said at the inauguration ceremony of an orphanage in Kermanshah Province last week.

“The SWO is shifting its approach from organization-centered programs to social and family-oriented ones,” he maintained.

Lamenting the increasing trend of social problems, with divorce and addiction in the lead, he said the SWO has started taking remedial action and precautionary measures to stem the tide.

“Based on available data, some 55% of divorces are due to the problem of addiction.”

According to the deputy chief for social affairs at the Law Enforcement Forces, Brigadier General Saeed Montazerolmahdi, domestic violence followed by substance abuse and divorce is equally rampant in the society.

“Poverty is another factor, but not all social malaise stems from poverty. Recent studies show that there is no direct correlation between poverty and social violence or divorce.”

The SWO provides the highest number of marriage therapy sessions and counseling, Bandpei noted. “It is the only organization in the country equipped with an adequate and qualified workforce to tackle social problems.”

The Department of Social Harm at the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Welfare is preparing an atlas in which status charts will be drawn for 15 types of social harms specific to cities across the provinces.

“Several social ills afflicting the society are straddling the critical line,” says Dr. Roozbeh Kordooni, social deputy at the ministry.

 The atlas will not be publicized. It is for official use with precise data on the trends and state of social harms to help those in charge address the problems in a timely and efficient manner.

 Growing Threat of Social Media

Social networks can make people feel connected to a larger community, but such easy, casual connection in an electronic environment can, and does, have its downside. Social media are a bottomless well of social harm, giving birth to new problems as they expand by the day.

The immediacy provided by social media leaves people vulnerable to the practice of cyber-bullying. According to Abolhassan Firouzabadi, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Cyberspace and head of the Iran National Cyberspace Center, there are over 114 social networks active in Iran, most of which operate for entertainment.

More than 50% of users spend more than one hour a day on social networks including Telegram, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin. According to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, 13 million Iranians are currently using Telegram, a social messaging application for smartphones, through which an assortment of dodgy information with no authentic source, and a mixture of fact and fiction are circulated on a daily basis.

With more than 22 million smart phones in the country, the need for an effective system to deal with the socio-cultural impact of cyberspace is being felt more than ever before.

Kordooni urged the academia and scholars to assist policymakers by looking into the root causes of social harm.