Mental Health Conditions
According to the American Psychiatric Association (2013), it is not possible to create an exact definition of what constitutes a mental health disorder. However, a mental health disorder adversely impacts a person’s mood or thinking processes in such a way that the person experiences marked impairments in social, academic, or occupational functioning. Fluctuations in mood and occasionally having unusual thoughts are both typical phenomena. They become an area for intervention when they interfere with a person’s ability to cope with everyday life. According to Carr (2009), mental health disorders can be caused by biological, psychological, or social issues, or by some combination of the three. Common mental health issues include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post traumatic stress disorder.
Most mental health disorders are not readily visible to other people, yet these conditions are remarkably common. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (2014), at any given time 1 in 5 Canadians is dealing with a significant mental health issue. This means that all of us know someone – be it ourselves, a family member, a friend, a classmate, a co-worker, or a neighbour – who is struggling with a difficult psychological issue.
There is increasing awareness of the prevalence of mental health concerns on campuses and institutions are working to raise awareness, reduce stigma, focus on maintaining student well-being, and provide holistic supports for students experiencing mental health issues.
Students experiencing a mental health condition may have difficulty concentrating in class or exam settings, due to anxiety, depression, or other symptoms. Their ability to make progress on assignments or attend classes on certain days may also decline when they are experiencing significant symptoms. In some cases, students may experience a mental health crisis while on campus, demonstrating unusual or disruptive behaviors. In these cases, instructors should notify the Counseling or Disability Services office or their School Chair for immediate assistance.
Flexibility during times when it is needed such as providing a quiet environment for exams or extensions on an assignment due date; supportive and understanding instructors, and access to support staff such as Counselling and Disability Services, can give students experiencing mental health issues the environment needed to support a successful learning experience.
For more information on the impacts of this disability and classroom accommodations, see Social Interaction, Memory, Fatigue, Stress Management, Organization and Time Management, Written Expression, Oral Expression, and Information Processing.