Addiction and substance abuse disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorder, depression, sleeping disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are some of the mental health issues students face today. Add to this the uncertainty we are all coping with under COVID-19 and the added stresses of financial issues, physical health issues, and caring for family and friends during the pandemic. Helping students and providing reasonable accommodations is not just the right thing to do, it’s also required for institutions that receive state and federal funding. These reasonable accommodations can be the difference between students succeeding and failing in college.
Types of Accommodations
There are many different types of accommodations students with mental health issues can benefit from, including:
- Preferred Seating – allows students to sit where they feel most comfortable, such as near an exit, making it easier for them to leave the classroom if necessary.
- Additional Breaks – Students who struggle to focus for long periods of time can benefit from taking additional breaks.
- Separate Exam Rooms – Separate exam rooms and extended time for exams can calm students with test anxiety, panic attacks, or other disabilities.
- Note Takers – Notetakers and tape recorders can support students who find it difficult to stay focused during class. This gives these students the opportunity to listen to the class lecture later or read over the class notes.
- Extended Time for Exams – can help calm students who suffer from test anxiety.
- Tape Recorders – students who have a hard time focusing during class can benefit from having lectures recorded so they can listen or watch later.
Pointing Students in the Right Direction
From my experience, many students don’t always want to use the accommodations they are entitled to or don’t realize they have entitlements. Over the past couple of years, I have had more and more discussions with students about accommodations for mental health issues. Typically, after a test, a student will come to my office and share with me how test anxiety is a challenge for them. Many times, they don’t realize that services at the college are available for them, or they don’t want to take advantage of them.
- There is No Shame – Explain that this is a common issue! Many students deal with these types of problems and there is no shame in asking for help, especially as we are all collectively dealing with more stress and challenges than before.
- Rights & Resources – Advise the student of their rights and what type of school resources your institutions offer.
- Counselor – Discuss the availability of school counselors and advisers who should be able to help them.
- Appointment – Help them make an appointment with a counselor if possible.
- Your Class – Outline some ways you can help provide some accommodations in your own class.
Students with mental health issues can have a successful college experience. Whether they are facing substance abuse issues, depression, anxiety, bipolar, or something else, colleges today have accommodations to help these students be successful. Faculty have a unique opportunity to share resources with these students that are available that can make a huge difference.