College Student Disability Services Helped My Mental Health
I avoided Student Disability Services in college because of mental health stigma. Although I was diagnosed with various mental health conditions as a teen, it wasn’t until college that I truly realized the debilitating effect mental illness could have on my life. I was highly resistant to the idea when an on-campus counselor first advised me to make an appointment with my university’s Student Disability Services department. Sure, I needed help, but I didn’t need that kind of help.
Self-Stigma and Refusing Help from Student Disability Services
At the time, I did not see that my mental illness could be a legitimate disability. After all, when my symptoms weren’t bad, I was relatively “high-functioning.” Professors continually voiced how impressed they were with my work. I tested well and received high grades. How could I possibly fall under the disability label?
Mental Illness Can Be a Disability
The dictionary definition of "disability" is:
a physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person's ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions (1)
When mental illness significantly interferes with a student’s education it is considered a disability. If a student is on the verge of failing or dropping out due to mental health problems, the Student Disabilities Services department may be able to help. However, just like seeking out other forms of mental health assistance, utilizing Student Disability Services comes with a lot of stigmas attached.
Overcoming Self-Stigma to Use Student Disability Services
It was hard for me to accept how incapacitating my symptoms could get when they were bad. With my inability to concentrate, it became nearly impossible to comprehend the readings for my courses. I became increasingly terrified of going to class or even being in public places. My short-term memory was almost nonexistent. Ashamed of my inability to live up to the high academic standards I set for myself, I often disappeared from class without a trace.
A part of me was afraid that I would be seen as lazy for accepting help from Student Disability Services. It took me a couple more semesters before I fully accepted the help they could offer. It was not a free pass to slack off and do whatever I wanted. What they did provide me with were accommodations like extended deadlines, test rescheduling, and late withdrawals from courses. Most importantly, accepting help opened up a space for mediation between myself and my professors when I felt too ashamed or scared to address them on my own (How Can Colleges Help Students with Mental Illness?).
Reducing Stigma About Using Student Disability Services for Mental Health
Even with the help of Student Disability Services, college might still be an uphill battle for those with mental illness. Fortunately, it is not a battle you need to fight on your own. Watch the video below to hear more about my own experience using Student Disability Services in college.
1. “Disability.” Merriam-Webster.com, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disability. Accessed 2017.
Miles, R. (2017, October 31). College Student Disability Services Helped My Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, August 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2017/10/mental-health-disability-stigma-in-college