DefinitionMental Health disabilities involve psychological disturbances in thinking, emotions, and behaviour. These disorders result from complex interactions between hereditary, physical, and social influences. Disorders become disabilities when they seriously interfere with a person’s ability to work, socialize, or learn.
Most common type of diagnoses
- Bipolar Disorder
- Anxiety Disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Personality Disorders
- Eating Disorders
- Sleep Disorder
Many students are stabilized on medications that diminish the symptoms of mental illness. Sometimes students go off their medication regimes when they are feeling balanced. However, they often find that the stresses of college life reactivate the symptoms and necessitate returning to pharmaceutical interventions. Some medications take several weeks to reach their maximum effectiveness so students may need extra monitoring and support during this time.
Some students experience significant side-effects from their medications. Difficulties with concentration, sleep, tremors, memory, and blurred vision may be issues facing students using prescribed medications. It is best if students with mental health issues are getting regular monitoring from their Physicians, Psychiatrist, or Mental Health Counsellor.
Suggested instructional strategies and accommodationsAttending post secondary education can be overwhelming for students struggling with mental health issues. Instructors who are approachable and strive to create learning environments that welcome individual differences, can be instrumental in students having a positive experience. Needs will depend on the diagnosis and how severely is affects the student, but the following suggestions may be helpful for many students with mental health disabilities.
- Provide a list of readings as early in the term as possible.
- Allow for seating arrangement modifications if required.
- Allow scheduled breaks during long lecture sessions, tests and examinations.
- Allow the possibility of written assignments in lieu of oral presentations (or vice versa).
- Consider allowing take-home tests and/or examinations in place of in-class assessments.
- Some students are very comfortable talking about their disability and others are extremely private. If a student chooses to share their diagnosis with you, it is imperative this is respected.
- Discuss any inappropriate classroom behaviour with the student privately, directly outlining limits of acceptable conduct, or refer the situation and student to the Disability Advisor.
- In your discussion with the student, do not attempt to diagnose or treat the psychological disorder. Concentrate only on the student’s behaviours in the course.
- Encourage students to seek support and develop strategies in self-advocacy, study skills and time management strategies by referring them to Accessibility Services or Counselling and Student Development.
- Most students with disabilities function best when classes are structured and expectations are clear. Unannounced changes can be stressful.
- If a student is disconnected from reality, visibly agitated, or severely depressed, accompany them to Counselling and Student Development, Medical Services or Accessibility Services.