Students with psychiatric disabilities have experienced significant emotional issues that generally have chronic symptoms and have been treated professionally. With appropriate treatment, often combining medications, psychotherapy, and support, the majority of psychiatric disorders can be controlled. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that one in five people in the United States have some form of psychiatric disability, but only one in five persons with a diagnosable psychiatric disorder ever seeks treatment due to the strong stigmatization involved.
Below are brief descriptions of some common psychiatric disabilities.
Depression is a major disorder that can begin at any age. Major depression may be characterized by a depressed mood most of each day, a lack of pleasure in most activities, thoughts of suicide, sleep problems, and feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
Bipolar disorder (manic depressive disorder) causes a person to experience periods of mania and depression. In the manic phase, a person might experience inflated self-esteem and a decreased need to sleep.
Anxiety disorders can disrupt a person's ability to concentrate and cause hyperventilation, a racing heart, chest pains, dizziness, panic, and extreme fear.
Schizophrenia can cause a person to experience, at some point in the illness, delusions and hallucinations.
Trauma is not the sole cause of psychiatric disabilities; genetics may play a role.
Psychiatric disabilities affect people of any age, gender, income group, and intellectual level.
Disruptive behavior is not an attribute of most people with psychiatric disabilities.
Eighty to ninety percent of people with depression experience relief from symptoms through medication, therapy, or a combination of the two.
Depression is a variable condition that may fluctuate during a person's lifetime.
Common accommodations for students with psychiatric disabilities include:
- Reduced distraction test environment
- Extended time on tests
- Taped lectures
- Occasional Extension of due dates
- Occasional Exception to absentee/tardiness policy
The following strategies are suggested to enhance the accessibility of course instruction, materials, and activities. They are general strategies designed to support individualized reasonable accommodations.
Spend extra time with the student, when able, and assist the student with planning and time management.
Allow the student to tape-record lectures.
Assist the student with finding an effective notetaker (when such accommodation is stated on Student Accommodation Form).
Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams, and when assignments are due; provide advance notice of any changes.
When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him/her or Disability services.
Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (i.e., avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class