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By Kelly Davis, Director of Peer Advocacy, Supports, and Services at Mental Health America

The pandemic is negatively impacting the mental health of many college students and has created a large shift to online learning. A survey conducted by Active Minds in April found that 80% of students reported that the pandemic negatively impacted their mental health. But what is happening to the students who were struggling or who were receiving support for a psychiatric disability prior to the pandemic?

For the time being, many schools are rethinking the needs of students. Changes that would make school more accessible for students with disabilities, like flexible assignment due dates and attendance policies or recorded classes, are more accepted as schools try to adapt. Yet students with disabilities struggled and still struggle to access these supports on an individual basis. Students often report barriers to accommodations, including:

  • Not knowing that mental health conditions can qualify them for disability accommodations;
  • Difficulty navigating disability services;
  • Lack of access to mental health professionals and documentation; and
  • Non-supportive professors.

All of these problems remain and may become more complicated during the pandemic. To learn more about what college students with psychiatric disabilities are experiencing, Mental Health America has created a new survey focused on the following questions:

  • What are the experiences of college students with psychiatric disabilities during the pandemic?
  • How have the needs of students with psychiatric disabilities changed during the pandemic?
  • How have professors and disability services adapted to meet the needs of students with psychiatric disabilities during the pandemic?
  • How can colleges and universities better meet the needs of students with psychiatric disabilities during the pandemic and in the future?

As many in the world of mental health understand, a crisis can also be an opportunity for growth. It is important for us to use the pandemic to normalize accommodations and to understand how we can do better for students with psychiatric disabilities on campus and through online learning.

To take and share the survey, visit bit.ly/campusmhsurvey.
Survey closes October 16, 2020.

Questions? Email Kelly Davis at kdavis@mhanational.org.

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