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.