Training future frontline responders: DC paramedic program prioritizes mental health and well-being

Paramedics are the frontline responders in medical emergencies, bridging the critical gap between the scene of an incident and hospital care. Their expertise, quick thinking, and compassion save countless lives every day, making them indispensable in times of crisis.

At Durham College (DC), we train the next generation of first responders in the Paramedic diploma program. This dynamic program helps students build the diverse skill set needed to succeed, and includes clinical and field placements as well as experiential learning opportunities – such as our annual emergency simulation exercise – to maximize hands-on learning within the field. A key focus is also supporting the mental health and well-being of not only community members but the paramedics themselves, given the stressful, high-intensity work that they do.

As we recognize Paramedic Services Week, we caught up with three of DC’s paramedic students – Sofia Mingram Romero, Remiel kit Manlapig, and Manav Patel – to learn more about their experience in the program.

  • Sofia Mingram Romero

    With her love for photography and passion for capturing life through her lens, Sofia realized she wanted to be able to support life in other ways, too. When she witnessed a medical emergency while working, she was able to help, but realized there were more advanced skills she might need in the future. That’s when she decided to return to DC, where she had previously graduated from the Advertising and Promotion program, to pursue a new career as a paramedic.

    What she values most in the program is how modernization and holistic care are redefining the profession.

    “There has been a significant change in the way paramedics help those experiencing mental health issues, so there is a need to consider the complexities in people’s lives and how to best help them,” she said.

    In addition to acknowledging the need to help people with their mental health needs, the program prioritizes the mental health and well-being of its students.

    “In this role, we experience a lot of stressful and challenging situations. Sharing our experiences and being vulnerable while working together is critical to ensure we are getting the help and support we need.”

  • Remiel kit Manlapig

    While studying Emergency Services Fundamentals at another institution, Remiel transitioned to the paramedic program at DC because he was looking for something more fast-paced, while remaining in the medical profession. He said the exceptional support from faculty and the round the clock accessibility of paramedic resources such as labs were among the key reasons he chose the program.

    Like Sofia, Remiel values the mental health supports available in the program. Peer support groups are offered for each cohort, and Remiel is a designated member who is responsible for looking out for peers when they face something overwhelming.

    After graduation, Remiel is considering becoming a community paramedic, a non-emergency service provider who supports public health and preventative services. There are opportunities for students to participate in this type of paramedic work through their field placements.

    “DC is leading the way with stationing its community paramedics in locations such as the Back Door Mission to extend help to the homeless as well as provide critical care to those in need at their homes,” he said.

  • Manav Patel

    As a soon-to-be graduate of the Paramedic program, Manav said the most valuable aspect of the program for him was the opportunity to connect and interact with professional first responders through placements.

    “I take inspiration from those professionals and can leverage the experiences into my own training and learning. They’re all willing to teach you,” he said.

    “One of the best things that we have through the program is that even the teachers are very aware of how our mental health does impact our education.”

    The importance of nurturing both physical health and emotional resilience is a key takeaway from the program.

    He enjoys how every day is different and brings opportunities to learn new things.

Equipped with knowledge, empathy, and unwavering determination, these aspiring paramedics are all set to make an incredible impact on the lives of those they serve, ushering in a future defined by compassion and excellence. Are you interested in a career as a paramedic? Learn more online.

Durham College leads the way in mental health with on-campus services and in-demand programs

As a college student, you have a lot on your plate.

From juggling course assignments, lectures, labs and research papers, to squeezing in study time and working your part-time job – it’s a lot! And it’s easy to not give your mental health the attention it deserves. But at Durham College (DC), a number of on-campus services and resources aim at making mental health less of an after-thought and more of a priority.

DC’s Campus Health and Wellness Centre (CHWC) provides mental health services that begin with a mental health needs assessment. Based on the results of this assessment, you’re connected with an appropriate member from a team of medical professionals who practice mental health, psychotherapy, and wellness coaching. You also have access to a variety of convenient and confidential well-being services on campus, such as chiropractic and physiotherapy services, a pharmacy and medical clinic.

Additionally, you can reap the benefits of free on-campus wellness workshops, events, and support groups through the CHWC that include topics such as yoga, mindfulness, body image and food, and relationship building.

International students are encouraged to check out DC’s complimentary International Wellness Check – designed to make your transition to post-secondary education easier by discussing any health concerns you may have and ensuring you’re up to date on immunizations required for your program.

If you’re looking for on-going counselling services or simply a trusted professional to talk to about your academics, DC’s Access and Support Centre has you covered.


Are you ready to take your passion for mental health to the next level?

As the demand for mental health services continues to rise, the need for qualified practitioners is becoming more important than ever, and DC is answering the call. The new Community Mental Health – Honours Bachelor program was designed to equip future mental health professionals with the knowledge and skills needed in today’s world.

DC’s Addictions and Mental Health (graduate certificate) program is also available to prepare future mental health professionals for careers as counsellors and support workers.

Apply today and begin this September!

Stay healthy at Durham College with our Wellness Directory

We are here to support all members of our Durham College community. Whether you’re a student or an employee, we want to help you be the best and healthiest version of yourself.

With the recent launch of our new Wellness Directory, we’ve put all of our wellness supports and resources at your fingertips. They’re organized by the eight dimensions of wellness: physical, occupational, social, mental, spiritual, intellectual, environmental and financial. Whatever challenges you’re facing, you’ll find everything you need to manage them with confidence.

Here’s a brief look at each dimension, and how we’re here to help you with each one.

Physical wellness

It’s hard to overstate the importance of taking care of your body. Exercise, proper nutrition, and healthy sleep habits are just some of the important factors that contribute to your physical wellness.

Learn more

You can get (and stay) healthy by working out at the Fitness Centre, ensure your nutritional needs are being met at the Durham College Student Association (DCSA) Food Bank, or learn more about wellness at the Campus Rec Resource Library.

Occupational wellness

It’s important to maintain a balance between your work (as a student or professional) and the rest of your life. When you’re in class or at your office, your focus should be on doing your work to the best of your ability. But at the end of the day, you should leave your work behind you and make the most of your leisure time by doing the things that bring you joy and satisfaction.

We have a number of resources that help both students and employees perfect their work/life balance, from Career Development to our range of Employee Supports.

Learn more

Social wellness

Are you engaged with your community? Do you have healthy relationships with people who support you and give you a sense of belonging? Learning how to communicate respectfully and relate to all kinds of people is critical for your social well-being.

The DCSA offers students lots of opportunities to get involved, from events to support groups. Our employees have options too, whether they’re just starting their career with us or bringing it to a close.

Learn more

Mental wellness

Mental health encapsulates everything from your emotional state to the way you think and feel about the world and your place in it. As we face all of life’s challenges, good mental health allows us to understand, manage and accept our emotions and behaviours.

Are you okay? We want to know. Take part in our Better Together Series, make an appointment to speak to a professional at the Campus Health Centre or visit our Wellness Den.

Learn more

Spiritual wellness

Do you feel connected to your culture or community? Is spirituality and religion important to you? It’s important to find a sense of meaning and purpose in your life, no matter where it comes from.

Prayer rooms are available on our campuses for those who wish to make use of them. The First Peoples Indigenous Centre offers opportunities to learn important lessons about history and reconciliation.

Learn more

Intellectual wellness

As an institute of higher learning, DC offers many ways for you to expand your knowledge and promote your self-development and self-discovery. Effective goal setting and time management are crucial to your success.

A number of resources are available to help you develop these important skills, from the Institute of Student Leadership and Peer Tutoring to Prep 1000, DC’s online first-year student experience course.

Learn more

Environmental wellness

At DC, we want to provide you with welcoming, engaging environments that positively support your well-being. Whether you’re outside interacting with nature or studying indoors, you deserve to feel safe and content.

We are committed to providing safe spaces on our campuses, from Residence to Student Study Spaces and our Wellness Den.

Learn more

Financial wellness

Whether you’re a student paying your tuition or an employee supporting your family, matters of finance are bound to be on your mind. Maintaining a healthy relationship between your goals and your financial obligations is crucial to being financially healthy.

Our budget calculator can help you live within your means. Financial Aid and Awards are available for students in need of assistance.

Learn more

To learn more about DC’s commitment to your health, see our mental health and well-being framework.

Supporting rising mental health demands through responsive programming

In her job as an Emergency Room nurse, Grace Li sees the pressing demand for mental health services in the community every day.

Hope Peters saw the same critical need as she trained to become a police officer.

And data supports what Li and Peters are seeing firsthand. A recent study by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontariomore than 60 per cent of students struggle with mental health before starting college. A February report from Toronto-based non-profit People for Education found that 91 per cent of schools were in need of mental health supports, largely a result of the pandemic and the toll it’s taken on young learners.

Though both Li and Peters have had incredibly different experiences in their capacities as first responders, they share a common goal: to develop the necessary skills to help address the increasing demand for mental health supports in the community.

To meet this urgent demand, Durham College (DC) has launched a brand-new Honours Bachelor of Community Mental Health (HBCMH) degree program, slated to start this September, and Li and Peters are among its first applicants.

“I chose DC’s Honours Bachelor of Community Mental Health degree program so I could learn about the many aspects of mental health,” said Peters. “My previous post-secondary classes were entirely virtual so I’m excited to interact with my classmates and professors in person again.”

Students in the HBCMH program will combine theory-based knowledge with hands-on learning in the community through a field placement in any one of a number of spaces such as public health facilities, hospitals, private counselling offices or social services. There they will put their knowledge and skills to use while immediately supporting the urgent needs of the community.

“My goal is to try and learn new approaches for mental health and law enforcement to ensure that not only are police officers equipped with knowledge and skills, but also those going through a crisis have their rights protected and receive the help they need,” said Peters.

Interested in a career in mental health? Visit our programs and courses page to learn about the HBCMH program as well as others that prepare students with the skills needed to be in demand in their chosen field.

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Grace Li (front left) and Hope Peters (front right) are welcomed by Ralph Hofmann, executive dean (back right) and Joanne Spicer, associate dean (back left) of the Faculty of Social & Community Services for a campus visit in February.