When attending college with a mental health diagnosis, it is important to take into consideration how it may impact your grades and overall college experience. When sharing information about your diagnosis with friends and family, there usually is an element of solidarity that can be taken for granted. However, when approaching a professor with the details of a particular diagnosis, their reaction can impact many important aspects of your academic performance if it is difficult for you to perform academically due to the symptoms of your diagnosis. This article will offer some tips on how to request academic accommodations through the school and how to discuss your mental health concerns with your professors.
Know Your Options
Most colleges have a disability services office or academic services professional who can help college students understand what kinds of accommodations might be available to them for physical or mental disabilities. For mental health diagnosis, these accommodations may include general extra time for testing or study, assisted learning resources, and the like. This office can let you know what kinds of accommodations are available and what steps to take to request them. You may even find options that you didn’t even know were available to you at your school, so it is always worth seeking out your school’s academic services office, should it exist. Check the campus directory or speak to an academic advisor if you have concerns or questions and they should be able to point you in the right direction.
Once your request for certain accommodations is granted, academic services will contact your professors and other staff to make sure the necessary arrangements are made.
Contacting Your Professors
If your school does not provide additional services for academics or an outlet for academic accommodations, a good course of action to take would be contacting your professors directly explaining a few key details about your diagnosis and your needs while in the class. Even if your school has a formalized process for accommodating mental health needs through a student services office, it may still be a good idea to contact your professors directly and discuss your needs and how to meet the expectations for the class. This can be as simple as just checking in with them to confirm that you will be receiving extra assistance or special accommodations and talking over how best to address the issues.
If you feel comfortable doing so, you can also discuss your diagnosis and how it affects your academics with your professor in more detail. This may be a good approach to take if certain aspects of the class could affect your condition. For example, a student with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be sensitive to certain subjects, such as assault, that could come up in class. In this case, it may be necessary for the student to be excused from class for that portion or to be given a different topic or assignment. In this case, you don’t have to go into details with the professor about the trauma you experienced, but letting a professor know that there may be certain topics that are off-limits can help them accommodate your needs better.
A professor is someone who determines the outcome of your academic success, so if you fear your mental health may be a contributor to troubles you may have in the future of your academic career, it can be extremely beneficial to let them know about what could be helpful for you going forward as a new semester begins.
Feeling Safe Disclosing Your diagnosis
It is not a casual thing to let someone know you are suffering from a mental health condition. Talking about your struggles can be extremely difficult, so it is understandable that you might be apprehensive about disclosing what can be considered personal information to someone who is a complete stranger. It’s up to you to decide how much information you want to share, but it’s worth remembering that 1) most people will not pry into your issues beyond a need-to-know basis, and 2) many people have mental health conditions as well (including your professors) so it is unlikely that you will be unusual for requiring extra assistance or accommodations in regards to your academics.
Moreover, most colleges and universities have privacy policies in place to protect your personal information, so knowledge about your diagnosis and accommodations should be limited to your professors and not be disclosed to other students or staff.
How To Approach Your Professor
If you arrange for assistance through the college or university’s disability services office or student services, they will take the necessary steps to arrange the appropriate accommodations and contact your professors to notify them. However, if you want to follow up with your professor or discuss your needs in more detail, you should feel free to do so. If you feel comfortable talking about your mental health concerns in person, you can visit your professor during office hours or arrange a meeting to talk about it further. This can be beneficial because it allows you and the professor to have a conversation and come together on a plan for how to best help you succeed in class.
If you’d rather not have an in-person conversation, you can write an email to them as a why to introduce yourself and explain your situation. Start by telling them that you are looking forward to the class and are excited to learn, then you can move on to telling them about your diagnosis and what it means in terms of your performance in class. If you are worried that they may not be familiar with or understand your particular diagnosis, you can include a brief description or include some links to information about the disorder that may be helpful to them. Then you can discuss any accommodations to be arranged or special needs that you may have. It can also be helpful to describe the ways in which you plan to work with the professor and other student services to give you the best opportunities to succeed in the class. This is also when you can ask them any questions about the course or if they have any questions or concerns about you taking the class. Conclude the email by reiterating that you are eager to learn and willing to do the work needed to succeed in the class.
If you are a student with a mental health condition that may affect your academic performance, you can request reasonable assistance and accommodations to help you in your classes. Most colleges and universities have a disability services office or student services personnel that can help you make arrangements for special learning accommodations and will notify your professors of your needs. You can also discuss your diagnosis and needs for the class with your professor so that you can work together to help you succeed in the class. Attending school.
Your health should always be your top priority and explaining to your professors how to best help you accomplish what you want to accomplish at school should be your top priority in order to ensure your scholarly success. Attending school while also suffering from a mental illness or substance abuse disorder can be difficult but you can succeed academically through both assistance from the university and professors, as well receiving appropriate treatment and therapy. If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health disorder or addiction to drugs or alcohol, contact Sober Life to see how we can help you overcome the challenges and succeed in your goals. Sober Life offers outpatient treatment and aftercare programs that allow you to live at home and go to school while still receiving the benefits of therapy and treatment. To learn more, call Sober Life today at (619) 542-9542.