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UNDERSTANDING DISABILITIES mental health disabilities

Who are Students with Mental Health Disabilities?

Students with mental health disabilities may include persons who have been diagnosed with clinical depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Students typically experience cycles of wellness and relapse. As a result, their academic performance can be inconsistent and does not always reflect their true abilities.

Individuals with psychiatric disabilities may function very well for months or years and then suddenly have difficulty managing their studies. Symptoms of their illness and/or side effects of their medications can affect the level and speed of their academic performance.

Besides the illness itself, one of the major barriers students with mental health  disabilities face is stigma.  As a result, many students with psychiatric disabilities may not be forthcoming about any academic difficulties they are experiencing. Trust is a critical factor in overcoming their sense of shame and fear.

Things to Consider

Even when students with mental health disabilities are well, they need to take preventative measures to maintain their health. Academic accommodations they require must take into consideration the importance of reducing stress so they can best manage their studies and their mental health simultaneously. Factors that may induce stress for students with psychiatric disabilities include:

  • Making oral presentations in class;

  • Having to write more than one test or examination per week;

Updated on October 18th, 2013.