August 23, 2010
TORONTO, ON – Canada’s only undergraduate program in mental health studies is now entering its second year at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus (UTSC).
Traditional undergraduate psychology programs focus both on normal and on abnormal psychological processes, with the former usually receiving the lion’s share of attention. UTSC’s Mental Health Studies program provides a strong foundation in the science of psychology, with a particular focus on abnormal processes and approaches to their treatment.
The program was a tremendous success last year, accommodating more than 400 students in its inaugural year. This year, program directors are witnessing continued growth in enrolment and expect even higher numbers of students to register for this innovative program.
John Bassili, Chair of the Department of Psychology at UTSC, says the popularity of the program is related to a growing appreciation among students of the prevalence of mental health disorders, and a growing public awareness of their impact on society.
“There has been a gradual realization in our society that people whom we used to think of as ‘acting crazy’ are real people who have real health issues,” says Bassili. “Issues related to mental health are all around us, whether it is a family member who suffers from depression or someone on the street who is agitated and causing a disruption, so we need to learn more and approach these problems from an educated perspective.”
Once students have learned about mental health from an educated perspective and acquired their degree in mental health studies, what’s the next step?
A degree in mental health studies lays the groundwork for a student to pursue graduate studies in clinical psychology, social work, medicine, or to pursue a career working in a mental health facility. But it isn’t restrictive and certainly won’t close any academic doors. “If a mental health studies grad wanted, he or she could even opt for law school, a field where an appreciation of mental health is very useful” says Bassili.
Ayanna Seale is a 33-year-old UTSC student currently enrolled in the undergraduate mental health program. Building on her degree in mental health studies, Sealey hopes to do her master’s in performance psychology and to eventually work as a performance psychologist helping athletes, musicians and actors. “I’m a performance artist myself,” says Sealey, “so I know how difficult and mentally-taxing performing can be.”
UTSC’s leading-edge program resumes in September and will continue as Canada’s only undergraduate program in mental health studies.
“Addressing mental health issues and dispelling social stigma surrounding mental health is an important priority. As a University I think we’re lucky we can be at the forefront of such important work,” says Bassili.
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Department Chair of Psychology