Mental Health Conditions


Mental health conditions can create a number of obstacles for students in higher education. Both their personal and academic lives can be impacted by the presenting symptoms. Students commonly struggle with anxiety disorder, depression, and PTSD, as well as bipolar disorder, eating disorder, and personality disorders. Various symptoms include fatigue, unstable moods, and sleep problems which can affect energy levels, concentration and mental abilities of students.  

Effects in the Classroom

Energy Levels: Many mental health conditions include the symptom of fatigue. This can greatly impact students’ energy levels, making it difficult for them to attend class, stay engaged in lectures, and complete assignments on time.

Concentration: Some mental health conditions, such as ADHD and anxiety disorders, have the ability to affect students’ concentration during class. Concentrating, processing information and retaining knowledge during a lecture or while reading for class can be extremely difficult for these students. This then impacts their academic performance and ability to participate in class discussions. 

Stigma and Misunderstanding: Students who have hidden disabilities, such as a mental health condition, may face stigma or misunderstanding from those who do not know their situation. This can contribute to feelings of isolation and have an impact on their overall academic experience.

Lower GPAs: Students with mental health conditions often have lower GPAs due to impacts their symptoms can have on their academic performance. This can lead to lower self-esteem in these students, which may only exacerbate their condition. 

How Faculty Can Support Students with Mental Health Conditions

Be Aware of Campus Resources for Effective Mental Health and Suicide Care and Treatment: Some students may need more support than what you can offer. In these cases, its best to know what other resources are available on campus. The counseling center, Student Health Service providers, ACE tutoring, the Center for Accessibility and Disability Resources (CADR), and the Dean of Students Office are just some of our campus’s resources.
You can also include campus resources in your syllabus and make a point to talk about it with students on the first day of class.

Make Thoughtful Deadlines: When possible, do not make student deadlines late at night to allow students to prioritize sleep, which can support their well-being. 

Open Communication/Offer Support: At the beginning of the semester, make students aware that you have an “open door policy” in which they can seek your support when they are struggling. During high-pressure times, such as exams, remind students you are there as a support.

Consider Allowing Mental Health Absences: While not required, with the exception of students receiving accommodations via CADR, consider adding a policy allowing for excused absences related to mental and physical student health.
Accommodate Exam Arrangements: Be sure to accommodate exam arrangements for students, such as extended time, without requiring detailed information about the student’s mental health condition. 

Create an Inclusive Atmosphere: Foster an understanding and inclusive atmosphere in the classroom. Promote empathy and support among students. 

Respect Privacy: Respect the privacy of students and refrain from pressuring a student to disclose specific details about their condition. Keep the focus on providing necessary support and accommodations based on their needs.  

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