It goes without saying that no matter where you are, the events of the last 18 months have been difficult beyond anything that we would have expected to encounter. Daily death counts, massive restrictions on personal freedoms and so on have all contributed to the mental health crisis of generations, the effects of which will no doubt be felt for many years to come.
However, there is one silver lining to the hardship endured in the sense that there has been a marked increase in the number of young learners (aged 18–30) who have expressed an interest in discovering more about the learning options available to them in the field of psychology. According to the team at CoursesOnline, the uptake of interest in the psychology courses which they offer has jumped by 40% within this age bracket, when comparing pre-pandemic data with more recent figures. When surveyed as to their motivation for exploring this career path, just over half (54%) of respondents stated that their motivation was in some way tied to the pandemic. Either they had experienced mental health concerns themselves or had somebody close to them that had likewise suffered and this served as their motivating factor to look into such a career path.
This desire by predominantly younger learners to lookout for their friends and family has been noticed elsewhere, such as in a study from June conducted by UCL. Highlighting the ‘remarkable resilience’ of youngsters in the ways which they adapted to ‘exceptional circumstances’, the research lends credence to younger generations being more empathic despite the developmental changes which they are undergoing.
It remains to be seen though whether this interest will translate into there being more qualified mental health professionals long-term, or if this will be somewhat of a flash in the pan. For example, it has been noted by the Nuffield Trust that ;there is a wide disparity between students’ career aspirations at the outset of their degree and their eventual career outcomes.’ Meaning that whilst a large number of individuals may want a career in psychology to begin with, this figure tends to decline over time. This is of course dependent on a number of factors, which hopefully will not discourage too many from going down such a noble career path. To prevent this potential drop-off, the British Psychological Society has published guidance for professionals as to how to encourage young people to transition into psychology and similar mental health work, and hopefully will provide a useful foundation for supporting these learners on their way forward.