The rate of students identifying as having a mental illness is dramatically increasing in Ontario’s colleges and universities. At Humber, we have seen a 41% increase over the past two years in the number of students who have registered with Disability Services on the basis of mental illness disability.
Mental illnesses are difficult to deal with in any setting, but certainly pose even greater difficulties when trying to reach educational goals and learn effectively in a classroom. There are various obstacles, in the classroom and beyond, for those with psychological disabilities in educational settings and some of these are outlined below.
In fact, students with mental illnesses “…did not regard their academic problems as the major reason for their failure to achieve post-secondary educational goals. Indeed, what stood out in their memories were financial problems, their own psychological problems, and barriers due to external circumstances in their personal lives.There are stigma and stereotypes connected to mental illness and students.
Societal Myths - the idea that those with a mental illness are “crazy” or uncontrollable. Often perpetuated by the media, the fear of mental illness is widespread and many times discussed in everyday situations without regard for those who may suffer from a disorder.
Classroom Expectations and Accommodations - students experience a reduction in expectations by their peers and sometimes their teachers when they reveal that they have a mental illness. The idea that they “do not belong” in an average classroom is often assumed with no regard to their academic capabilities. Furthermore, it is difficult for teachers to justify specially accommodating an individual who, unlike those with physical disabilities, appears not to require special services.
Reluctance to Discuss Disability - Due to the pervasive stigmas regarding psychological illness, many students are hesitant to initiate discussion with their supervisors and teachers and therefore, sometimes go without proper accommodations.