Why make the case for career development as a mental health intervention? As we’ve pursued the Career Development and Mental Health project, we’ve become increasingly aware of the values underlying the initiative and, through working with interested others, with a rationale for carrying on. Obviously (this is true for us, but because you’re reading this, we also think it’s probably true for you), we are committed to making the case for career development as a mental health intervention because the evidence is telling us career intervention supports mental health. Finding ways to share that truth is probably the most important reason for continuing to “make the case,” but there are a few others:
- We care about career development intervention. Like most career paths for most people, we stumbled on a focus on career development while we were heading somewhere else, but after having worked in the area for thirty-plus years, we appreciate more than ever the central place career decisions have in most people’s lives. Our work as career development practitioners is important and relevant.
- It’s helping us learn more about career intervention. Making the case has helped us understand more about how career intervention works. Whether intended or not, career development intervention is also an intervention for positive mental health. Exploring this relationship has helped us learn more about how career development works and how it produces effects and outcomes that have both direct and indirect impacts on mental health. Revealing these connections will help us all to understand and be more intentional in our career development practice.
- We value our career development community. As a community, we are unified by our interest in and caring for the people we serve and our relationship with them. Whether in your local community of colleagues or at the level of regional or national community, we’re certain you’ve felt like you’re part of an important group of kindred spirits. Your tribe is interested in and cares about making a difference in the lives of clients and others who benefit from your work as a career development practitioner.
- Our work makes a difference. Although we’ve been mining the evidence supporting the positive mental health outcomes of our work, we are also reminded of and moved by knowing that career development intervention has an impact on client lives far beyond learned skills and tangible outcomes such as employment. The way individual lives change no doubt contributes to wellbeing, but we also know these positive changes have direct effects on our clients’ communities, personal networks, and families.
- There are large economic outcomes associated with our work. This reason refers to our role generally – helping individuals make fitting career plans optimizes their participation in work, the labour market, and local, regional and national economies – and also specifically in terms of the effects of career development intervention on positive mental health. Recent estimates by the World Health Organization place the cost of lost productivity due to anxiety and depression alone to be one trillion dollars per year. That’s a big number. Further, they estimate that for each dollar spent on intervention, there is a four dollar return on productivity (World Health Organization, 2019). At this point, we can’t estimate the future economic returns of career development intervention, but we can say with certainty that for most people, most of the time, career concerns, whether held by a youth trying to decide on a path or a mid-career individual attempting to relaunch after job loss, are among the most important demands faced in life and they impact every other part of our lives. Career development intervention supports clients to cope with these important demands and thereby also serves to reduce stress and its mental health consequences. Career development intervention addresses the immediate career-related needs of our clients while simultaneously providing support for positive mental health now and in the future. We anticipate that at some point in the near future we’ll be able to show economic returns for career development intervention that parallel those for mental health intervention.
*Reference: World Health Organization. (2019). Mental health in the workplace. Retrieved August 19, 2019 from https://www.who.int/mental_health/in_the_workplace/en/