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From the Pen of the President: February 2022

NASW-Illinois Chapter President Kenna Dunlap Johnson, MBA, MSW, LCSW

NASW-IL President Kenna Dunlap Johnson, MBA, MSW, LCSW

Welcome to 2022

Hello again, NASW-IL members and social workers across the state of Illinois. I want to wish for you a very hopeful and safe 2022. As we have now entered the new year and are just over a month in, I laugh as I think about all of the times in December that I said, “Let's circle back to that in the new year.” Can we just say that I’m sure we are all now circling back to those very things that we may have found a convenient moment to procrastinate from.

A Quick Note on the Word “Languishing”:

I was recently enlightened by a podcast that was discussing the word "languishing." Merriam-Webster defines the word in several different ways, but I have gravitated toward, “to be or live in a state of depression or decreasing vitality,” “to become dispirited,” and “to assume an expression of grief or emotion appealing for sympathy." The New York Times published an article in April 2021 called, “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing." This article was actually 2021’s Most Read Article according to the New York Times, which is rather interesting. You can check out the article here:

The article really discusses what it refers to as the “middle child of mental health” or this place that is not depression or burnout but could potentially be mistaken as either. Since March 2020, I think many of us can relate to experiencing being in a place of languishing. Maybe we weren’t necessarily burned out or depressed, but we struggled to find motivation, joy, and purpose. It was a feeling of being stagnant in life and while not depressed, still struggling to flourish. In addition to experiencing the pandemic, I think that as social workers, we have been hit with a lot of challenges in our field including losses and moments of defeat. But still we will rise to the occasion and face those challenges head on as we usually do. I don’t think that languishing will be able to hold us back forever, and I do believe that there is a sparkling light at the end of this tunnel. To put a new perspective on it, the word languishing has really opened my eyes to this place that I wasn’t really sure of for myself or others. The New York Times article goes on to discuss a possible antidote to languishing, which you can learn more about by reading the article. I highly recommend reading it. It has provided me with new insight, and I am thankful for my interest in listening to podcasts, which originally directed me to the word “languishing.”

DEI Committee Meeting and Workforce Diversity Focus Groups

In January, I was able to sit in on a meeting of the NASW-Illinois Chapter Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (NASW-IL DEIC). I want to give a huge shout-out to Latesha Newson, MSW, LCSW, for her ongoing leadership of this committee. I would also like to thank all of the members of this group for their ongoing efforts to increase awareness, respect, and appreciation of diversity within the social work profession. I quickly recognized that there is a lot to be learned from this amazing group of committee members. One aspect of the discussion had by the DEIC was the need for participants in the upcoming NASW-Illinois Chapter Workforce Diversity Focus Groups. As you may recall, the NASW-Illinois Chapter received additional funding to develop our Social Work Workforce Diversity Pipeline in Illinois. This funding has come from the Telligen Community Initiative (TCI). There will be five virtual focus groups across the state starting in March and ending sometime in May.

If you are interested in taking part in one of these focus groups, please visit the following link to read more and find the signup form link:

Social Work Licensure Renewal Reminder

As a reminder, we had some changes in licensure renewal this past year and as you are likely aware, the licensure cycle deadline was extended to February 28, 2022. If you have not yet renewed or updated yourself on this little change for the renewal period and need additional reminders on continuing education requirements or have other questions, please visit the following link to learn more:

Join the 2022 NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors:

Have you been interested in learning more about what your national association and state chapter does for you as a member? Would you like to learn more, make a difference for social workers across the United States and beyond, share a new perspective, and even develop lifelong friendships with other social workers? I can’t speak enough to the most rewarding experiences that I have had since my time as a volunteer for the NASW-Illinois Chapter. Having been on the board in one capacity or another since 2015, I have learned so much and shared so much. The relationships that I have developed with social workers from across the state of Illinois and beyond has been invaluable. Now is the time to consider how your perspectives and insights can help us to strengthen the work that social workers are doing. Please consider yourself or others that you may wish to nominate for our NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors. You can read more and submit a nomination at the following link: Join the 2022 NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors (

2022 Virtual Advocacy Day – Monday, March 21, 2022

Advocacy Day will again be virtual this year. Please consider joining us via Zoom for this most enlightening day. Find more information and register at the following link:

No Surprises Act 2022:

There has been a lot of discussion and questioning over the No Surprises Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2022. The new federal regulations aim to protect healthcare consumers from unanticipated medical bills. I think that there is still much to learn about what this means for clinical social workers and how it is impacting those that are practicing in behavioral health. I encourage you to visit the following link from our National website for more information and resources. In addition, you may find that our “My NASW Community” site is also a helpful location to share and chat with other social workers on this particular topic as well as many other topics at the forefront of social work practice.

NASW mourns death of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Investigator Deidre Silas

As a profession and as a society, we have suffered much loss over the past 2 years and prior to that. Many social workers and other human service workers step into the line of duty as they support, protect, and serve others. NASW mourns the death and immense loss of hero, Deidre Silas after she was murdered during a home visit. Deidre was taken from us while doing her job as an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigator. It is vital that we look at the need to improve the safety of those that are called to the front lines of protecting the people that we are called to protect. Please visit the following link to learn more and read about the legislation that NASW supports to promote social work safety in the field:

As we continue on into this new year, I wish you all warmth, safety and love. I enjoy sharing meaningful quotes when I write to you all every other month. I would like to present an opportunity to engage you all in being a part of this process.

If you have a special quote that you would like me to feature in a future “Pen of the President” article, please e-mail me at Share with me the quote and original author of the quote. I will review all those that are sent to me and pick one that really stands out at the time.

Thanks for reading,



Kenna Dunlap Johnson, MBA, MSW, LCSW (MBA, University of St. Francis; MSW, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) began working in the mental health field as a psychiatric inpatient mental health tech in 2004 prior to earning her MSW. After earning a degree in social work, Kenna continued on as case manager, therapist, and eventually, as director of behavioral health for a rural critical access hospital in east central Illinois. After that, Kenna went on to serve as director of admissions/intake for a 106-bed, free-standing psychiatric and addictions treatment hospital. She is currently vice president of outpatient services for a hospital management and consulting firm. In addition, Kenna teaches graduate and undergraduate social work courses for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Kenna served on the NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors as East Central District Chair for two terms, Vice-President for Budget and Finance for one term, and is now President (2021–2023). Kenna also serves her local school district as secretary for the board of education. Kenna is passionate about behavioral health treatment in rural settings as well as working to decrease stigma associated with mental illness. Kenna has also played a significant role in the NASW-Illinois Chapter Social Work Workforce Initiative as chair for the chapter's efforts to address social work workforce challenges and continue to grow and expand the valuable profession of social work.

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