The past decade has witnessed a global mental health movement with primary goals related to increasing awareness, improving identification and intervention, and reducing stigma. With these ends in mind, mental health is now recognized as a health concern and as a responsibility shared by not only mental health practitioners, healthcare providers and researchers, but by governments, institutions, workplaces, schools, post-secondary institutions, families and individuals. Interventions have been targeted at all of these levels and marked changes in understanding and intervention have ensued. We have a much better understanding of the pillars supporting positive mental health. Current evidence suggests that career development is another key determinant and important pillar of positive mental health.

A core team of researchers from BC and Alberta are exploring the connections between career development and mental health for youth (CCDMHY). There is increasing evidence of the impact that effective modern career development interventions have on variables such as confidence, hope, self-efficacy, motivation, purpose and sense of connection. These outcomes and other products of career intervention are associated with positive mental health. Concomitantly, recent advances in the conceptualization of mental health have resulted in the identification of core determinants or key components of mental health. Increasingly, current research provides evidence of mental health outcomes produced through career development interventions. Moreover, there appears to be considerable overlap between the outcomes of effective career interventions and the determinants of mental health, and the focus of our research is to explore the nature of this relationship. Our broad research agenda has four primary goals:

  1. to better understand the relationships between common career development outcomes and the determinants of mental health;
  2. to demonstrate a relationship between career interventions in schools and positive student mental health;
  3. to provide further evidence of career development as a shared responsibility and pillar of positive mental health; and
  4. to develop and test career development interventions that would have the most positive influence on mental health, with an emphasis on, but not limited to, interventions for school-aged populations.

We developed strong partnerships with researchers, local school districts and relevant government ministries to form a collaborative network to co-construct the conceptualization, design and implementation of the research agenda. For detailed information about each member of the research team please visit here. For a list of our education and government partners, please click here.

Why make the case for career development as a mental health intervention? As we have pursued the Career Development and Mental Health project, we have become increasingly aware of the values underlying the initiative and, through working with interested others, with a rationale for carrying on. 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:

  1. We all 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. The work of career development practitioners and educators is important and relevant.
  2. The connection between career development and mental health is 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.
  3. 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 the local community of colleagues or at the level of regional, national or international community, career practitioners and career educators are interested in and care about making a difference in the lives of clients and others.
  4. Career development intervention makes a difference. Although we have been mining the evidence supporting the positive mental health outcomes of career intervention, 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.
  5. There are large economic outcomes associated with career development intervention. This reason refers to the role of career intervention 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 in 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 (data retrieved from World Health Organization, 2019).  At this point  we cannot 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 students and 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.

Partnership Development grants must respond to the goals of the Insight Program and/or the Connections Program. We will be focusing on the Insight Program, described below. The central idea with Partnership Development work is to bring the right people/organizations together so that subsequent programming is relevant, robust and supported. The Insight Program is intended to:

  • build knowledge and understanding from disciplinary, interdisciplinary and/or cross-sector perspectives through support for the best researchers;
  • support new approaches to research on complex and important topics, including those that transcend the capacity of any one scholar, institution or discipline;
  • provide a high-quality research training experience for students;
  • fund research expertise that relates to societal challenges and opportunities; and
  • mobilize research knowledge, to and from academic and non-academic audiences, with the potential to lead to intellectual, cultural, social and economic influence, benefit and impact.