The UK faces a looming mental health crisis as a result of Covid-19, charities recently warned. This means that in the coming years as many as 10 million people in England alone could need mental health support as a direct consequence of Covid-19, according to the Centre for Mental Health.

“We’re going to see an extended set of challenges as a result of the pandemic, which will mean [a need] for appropriately qualified individuals,” says Ed Wilding, head of the school of psychology at the University of Birmingham. Psychology graduates were increasingly in demand even before the pandemic, in part due to shifting attitudes towards mental health.

“People are much more aware of mental ill health and what that means,” says Geraldine Fletcher, cognitive behavioural therapy programmes director at the University of Birmingham. “The stigma is decreasing and people are willing to talk about mental health.”

The number of people seeking help for mental health problems has also shot up, with 1.6m referrals to the NHS’s improved access to psychological therapies programme in 2018-2019, compared with 1.2m in 2014-2015.

Wilding says that alongside this he has seen a rise in the number of students wishing to study postgraduate psychology. “Interest has definitely accelerated,” he says, adding that funding for training has become easier to access. Samia Malik, studying a postgraduate diploma in CBT at the University of Newcastle, says this shift in public perception has made the subject more accessible to people from a range of backgrounds. “It’s demystified and reachable,” she says. “More people I know have asked me how to access training.”

But studying a postgraduate degree in psychology is challenging, as well as rewarding. “When you’re doing psychology at postgraduate level you have to be independent in your learning, you don’t get spoon-fed,” says Dr Jilly Gibson-Miller, a registered psychotherapist and lecturer at the University of Sheffield.

Mma Felicia Yeebo, a trainee clinical psychologist at the University of Newcastle, agrees, but says she feels it’s worth the hard work. “It’s very challenging, but also really interesting,” she says. “There’s definitely a need for interpersonal skills, to be able to talk to people and make them feel at ease when they might be struggling.”



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