This summer, Dr. Elaine Waddington-Lamont teaches Clinical Psychology and Mental Illness (PSYC 3604). The course defines mental health, lays out its historical context, and then describes the many different kinds of disorders by category—everything from sexual and sleep disorders to psychotic and personality disorders, like schizophrenia.

Wadding-Lamont has taught the course on and off for the last three years.

Q: How has the course changed over the years?

A: The course used to be called “abnormal psychology,” and that term has changed over time because people have come to realize that that’s kind of pejorative—to say that people who have a mental health issue are “abnormal.”

Q: One of the goals of the course is to develop empathy towards people with mental illness. What’s the importance of that?

A: The goal is a couple of things. One is to promote de-stigmatizing mental health as just something that is part of normal health, as healthcare . . . mental health is just health.

The other side of it is that a lot of people go through mental health challenges as a result of going through some kind of trauma. So by exposing to people to some of the effects of traumatic experiences in life, I think it’s useful for anyone who works with people to have at least some knowledge of how many people might be affected by mental health or trauma history.

[With] any profession where we work with people, we could probably do our jobs better if we had a bit of empathy by understanding that someone might not be at their best because of something that’s happened in their past.

Q: What do you hope people take away from the course?

I think it’s important for people to understand that these aren’t rare disorders that you see once in a lifetime. These are very common things that people are being diagnosed with every day. As Canadians over a lifetime, estimates vary but as many as 50 percent of people will have some kind of mental health diagnosis in their lifetime.

Q: Why do you think we’re so much more aware of mental illness today than in the past?

I think there were a lot of hard-fought initiatives to try and de-stigmatize it. People like Prince Harry or [Clara Hughes], there have been some very famous people who have gone and outed themselves publicly to try and say “I’m someone who has mental health challenges.”

Q: Are there areas that we as a society need to improve upon when it comes to mental health?

Even though there has been a lot of progress, there’s still a lot of stigma around it. There’s a lot of unequal access to treatment. We unfortunately don’t have full access to mental health treatment through our healthcare system. It can take a lot of time to see someone, or they can be a limit to how many sessions you can have.

It takes 12 months to see a psychiatrist in Ontario, and that’s probably not going to improve with recent moves towards two-tier healthcare or privatization of healthcare.

Q: Who would you recommend this course to?

For anyone who is interested in healthcare or any profession where you’re going to working with the public, they’ll find something valuable in it.

by Greg Guevara, Fourth-year Journalism, Carleton

For more articles, see CUOL’s story archive.

PSYC 3604 will be offered in the late summer term 2019. Check our course listings for other upcoming offerings.