Humber College will be one of the first in Canada to offer an Honours Bachelor of Social Science – Addictions and Mental Health degree. The college now has 29 degree programs.
“It’s going to be an amazing experience,” said Fizza Abbas, a graduate of the college’s Mental Health and Addictions graduate certificate program.
“It will definitely set you apart from different programs other institutions have to offer,” she said.
Fizza obtained a university degree from another institution prior to completing her certificate at Humber College. The certificate program has served her well in her work, but she says graduates from Humber’s new Bachelor degree will be even more prepared.
“This program will really be more specific and geared towards the work.”
Fizza is part of a Program Advisory Committee (PAC) that advises on educational planning at Humber. She and her colleagues on the PAC help keep courses current and relevant to the needs of mental health and addictions clients.
Apart from the academic and workplace benefits, Fizza sees the impact the new degree program could have on her community.
“In the South Asian community, this is such a taboo topic and I’m hoping that programs like this will raise more awareness. Giving my community a voice and helping to lessen the stigma.”
Two sectors, one course
Like Fizza Abbas, Karen Parsons has a unique interest in the program. She is the executive director of Peel Addiction Assessment and Referral Centre and often works with Humber alumni. Parsons also taught in the program.
After her work as an instructor, she wanted to stay involved in the program.
“I’m very passionate about it, really. I really wanted it to succeed,” she said.
She says that the centre could have 40 different workers at their agency, with 30 different educational pathways.
“We have to search for competencies,” she said.
“When they first told us Humber was going after a degree program, I was so happy. This is exactly what you need to bring yourself ahead of the industry.”
The four-year program will allow for more instruction and more practical placements.
‘A niche that is so needed’
Derek Stockley, the senior dean of the Faculty of Social and Community Services at Humber College, is also a family therapist. The Lakeshore Campus Principal previously ran a harm-reduction clinic for youth after he graduated from university.
Once Stockley started in the field, he found that his education hadn’t fully prepared him for his job running a harm reduction program for youth.
“Much of the learning takes place in the field. I had to learn, like so many of us, from my colleagues and mentors, and through a patchwork of professional development programs or conferences,” he said.
The course Stockley took was more focused on mental health than addiction, which is a problem for students and their future employers.
A more balanced approach, including equal instruction and practice around addictions, could help.
Stockley says there has never been a stronger need for mental health and addictions services – and confident, competent workers. He is certain Humber’s new degree will give students a more solid foundation of skills and knowledge for their career, maximizing the positive impact they can have on the lives of the people in their community.