In late June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated 40% of adults in the U.S. faced mental health or substance abuse issues. This statistic resulted from months that were heavily impacted by the coronavirus. Closures of businesses and mental health resources both contributed to the struggles many endured during these times.
Kaitlyn McFarlane, PLNU junior and psychology major, said, “Many [Americans] have restricted access due to closures and safety measures and are at risk for not receiving mental health resources.”
She added, “Many have lost their jobs, and as a result may have also lost their insurance, which can cut them off from the treatments they need.”
This highlights a need for improved access to resources, which starts with expanding the amount of individuals in the psychology field.
At PLNU, the percentage of students with conferred psychology degrees decreased throughout the years. The 2016-17 academic year fostered 9.1% of PLNU students with this degree, and as of this school year, only 6.6% of students entered. As students change their majors, these statistics may shift.
Hattie Besanson, a first-year student, shared her reasoning for selecting psychology.
“I have experience (from family) in depression, anxiety, substance abuse, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc., and since I have always been around it and learning about it, I’ve always been interested to know more ways I can help the ones I love most,” Besanson said. “I have [also] been able to see the heart behind psych students and why they chose the major.”
A fear some students may have is that psychology is not a major with a stable platform, especially with recent business closures. However, technology only broadened psychology’s reach to the population that in the past could not access mental health services, according to psychology professor Tim Hall. Telehealth (healthcare accessed online through telecommunications) allowed psychology to thrive at a time when many careers stagnated.
Hall said, “The telehealth and technology aspect is a huge blessing because it helps more people in being able to get help and it is more convenient. The advancements in technological abilities for research and for study and measurements is huge.”
Hall also mentioned with more people being impacted by mental health issues this year and the compounding effects of it in future years, the demand for psychologists shows no sign of diminishing.
“The increased need for resources is exponential. Resources are not just money, they are also healthcare professionals, and I think this field is going to explode,” Hall said. “The conversation of mental health is about growth and healing and people are more open to getting help.”
Written By: Katie Morris