Counselling, Forensic Psychology, Psychology, Social Psychology

Why study psychology at the OU if you’re interested in mental health

Psychology has always been a popular university course, but this is even more the case at the moment with the huge national interest in mental health and well-being, and more and more awareness of the high rates of stress and other mental health problems and the toll they take on society.
Classically students who have taken psychology degrees have been somewhat disappointed when they’ve ended up learning rather more about statistics and brain process than they have about how to understand their own mental health and to help people in the real world.
Psychology at the OU is different. While we certainly cover the whole British Psychological Society curriculum, the focus in our teaching and our research is on applying psychology to the real world, and many of us do work that is directly relevant to mental health.
At the OU we have specific qualifications in forensic psychology (which applies psychology to crime), psychology with counselling, and social psychology. We also have strong research teams in all of these areas. Our counselling teaching and research is all about how to address mental health problems and improve well-being. But our social and forensic psychology work is also highly relevant to this.
Over the past few years there has been increasing awareness that mental health problems are strongly linked to the social situation around us. For example, we know that rates of depression, self-harm and suicide have sky-rocketed under austerity. Also the impact of Brexit on rates of hate-crime and discrimination has had a huge knock-on impact on the mental health of many marginalised groups. The psychosocial approach which the OU School of Psychology is famous for directly addresses these issues.
Work in the OU School of Psychology also questions which of us end up being diagnosed with mental health problems, and which of us end up in the criminal justice system for behaviours which are equally rooted in distress. One of our new modules explores this ‘mad or bad’ problem and the way in which people are more likely to be pathologised or criminalised depending on their race, class, gender, age, and sexuality, for example. We need to consider how the social factors underlying so much stress and distress mean that many people end up in prison rather than receiving the help that they so desperately need.

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