These women turned to mental health jobs because of the pandemic

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Samantha Kubik, 26, has worked in luxury for five years. But during the pandemic, Kubik said, she grew frustrated using her energy to sell “people things they didn’t need and constantly putting out fires on something as insignificant as a piece of jewelry. “.

She realized she wanted to uplift people instead of worrying about bottom lines – and could finally see clearly how important mental health care was, she said.

A year ago, Kubik began volunteering with a suicide hotline for weekly evening or night shifts. The difference between this and his day job was immediately obvious.

“At the hotline, there’s such a level of respect, support and appreciation,” Kubik said. “Having my own mental health issues, I know the impact mental health services can have.”

This summer, Kubik switched careers and started applying for a master’s degree in counseling. She is one of many women who have chosen to leave their chosen field since the start of the pandemic to pursue a career in mental health.

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Women are already overrepresented in the field: In 2017, they made up about 82% of therapists, 73% of counselors and 67% of psychologists, according to data from the US Department of Labor. This share has increased over the past two decades, according to the American Psychology Association: women made up 50% of the psychology workforce in 2004 and 70% in 2019.

Mental health care, however, is still inaccessible to many Americans. Mental Health America’s 2022 report found that 56% of Americans with mental illness do not receive treatment. The pandemic has made the crisis worse: it has led to an increase in anxiety and depression and a shortage of treatment and resources.

Additionally, women have suffered disproportionate job losses during the pandemic – and employers are often the providers of health insurance. Others decided to quit their jobs in the midst of the “big quit” and pursue opportunities that seemed more closely aligned with their values.

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The pandemic has opened Mindie Barnett’s eyes to what really matters to her. The 48-year-old is entering her second year of a master’s degree in clinical psychology and family therapy this fall and is taking online classes while running her public relations firm and juggling her duties as a single mother.

“After the pandemic, I had time to reflect on my own life, the level of stress I face as a PR business owner, and my newfound interest in mental health,” a- she declared. Barnett has represented mental health experts in her role as a publicist and credits this exposure, in part, to her growing interest in entering the field.

However, becoming a clinician is not the only mental health-focused path that women take. Anushka Dias, 26, quit an advertising job she held for three years to become a mental health researcher. She had felt no connection to publicity work, she said, and the pandemic left her wondering if she would still be happy there 10 years later. She is now about to complete a Masters in Global Mental Health and Society.

The move uses Dias’ undergraduate degree in psychology and anthropology, she said, and it makes her feel like she’s contributing to the things she really cares about changing in the world, especially in her India. native.

“I feel like there are voices of hurt and joy left out of the conversation as we look at mental health from the singular lens of solving the problem before trying to figure it out,” Dias said. “A series of personal experiences and observations of the way mental health care is structured tells me something is wrong. People I knew were seeking therapy and taking medication, but the feeling of improvement seemed to level off after a certain point.

The decision to start over in a new profession has, at times, felt like a step backwards for Dias, she said. She still suffers from burnout when she dives into research – a problem people in the mental health field face. She sometimes wonders if it would have been better to stick to a career where personal and professional issues do not intersect.

“These lines fade very often and I easily feel emotionally drained,” Dias said. Indeed, a July 2020 study of more than 2,000 psychiatrists in North America found that 78% had high levels of burnout and 16% qualified for a diagnosis of major depression. Women were more likely to experience both.

But women continue to enter the field of mental health, and some are taking preventative steps to take care of themselves. Dias coped with burnout by focusing more on self-care, finding time for unrelated activities, and spending time with friends she can talk openly about her struggles with.

Kubik, for her part, hopes the mobility of the field will allow her to turn to a different side of mental health work if being a clinician becomes too overwhelming. In the meantime, she is also exploring coping mechanisms, such as yoga and breathing, to protect her own mental health, she said.

Quanesha Johnson, 41, quit her job as a school educator to open a private consulting practice ahead of the pandemic. But she said she knows the importance of finding balance, especially during this time: For her, that comes in the form of a community of mental health-focused co-workers who support each other. Johnson found that working in mental health during the pandemic further underscored “the importance of proper rest, taking care of my body, and that even though I’m in the helping profession, it’s normal to ask for support for myself,” she said. .

Johnson noted that even as she deals with the emotional toll of issues like full workload, racial injustice and home navigation, she’s never been more invigorated to provide education and support. of mental health.

“I want to help increase representation on the ground and see mental health resources also accessible to communities of color,” she said.

Indeed, the pandemic has shown many women that their careers aren’t as fulfilling as they could be. But this realization does not equate to automatic change – for many people, keeping the job they have is essential to maintaining economic stability.

For Kubik and Dias, who have made the leap, there is the fear of not being able to find a job. But, they said, they are sure that is what they are supposed to do.

“Work takes up so much of our day, and I wanted to be able to enjoy what I was doing,” Kubik said. “Most importantly, I realized I felt energized working with people and making a difference in their lives.”

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