People with severe psychological disabilities have some structural and biochemical characteristics in their brains that are different from those of people who are not mentally ill. With appropriate treatment, the vast majority of psychological disorders are effectively controlled, and for some individuals, the psychological condition is only temporary or situational. Treatment, which often combines medications and therapy, can effectively address a person’s symptoms and return them to be functioning members of society.
Problems related to providing educational support services to students with a history of mental illness are founded in the misconceptions and stigmas about the illness. Common myths about psychological disabilities often cause college faculty and staff to be reluctant to approach students realistically because of fears that the students are very fragile or could be violent. In reality, people with mental illness do not commit more violent crimes than the rest of the population. Although comparatively few students with psychological disabilities may react to stress by becoming agitated or even threatening, faculty who are aware of this kind of disability report that incidents of disruptive behavior by individual students can often be predicted, and, therefore, prevented.
Working with Students with Psychological Disabilities
The CSD staff may help students with psychological disabilities to identify and explain their functional classroom limitations, such as difficulty with oral presentations, or the need to accommodate side effects of medications (e.g. excessive thirst, skin irritations, agitation, frequent bathroom visits, etc.).
- Referral to campus mental health services for personal counseling
- Extended time for exams or a distraction-reduced exam environment
- Note-takers, readers, recorders
- Modification in seating arrangements
- Incomplete or late withdrawals, rather than failures, in the event of prolonged illness-related absences or crises
- Time management and study skills assistance.