When student mental illness gets in the way of learning


Today my thoughts were on past and present students for whom mental illness has made academic learning, and life in general, a major challenge. Today I don’t have many answers, but I do have questions for teachers and school leaders to consider:

  • How can non-therapeutic schools be responsive to the needs of these students?
  • Are our programs flexible enough to help students make progress academically, while at the same time supporting them through their more critical challenge of learning to manage their diagnoses?
  • Whose job is it to help these students manage their needs so that they can be successful learners in the classroom? Does the challenge of student mental illness  only belong to the school counselor, nurse, or therapist?
  • Are school programs flexible enough, or have enough leeway in this standardized environment, to define progress differently for these students as compared to others?
  • What supports do teachers need to better understand mental illness, as well as the methods to successfully work with these students in our classrooms?

Otherwise capable students, who face the challenge of accepting and managing their particular diagnosis, often struggle to keep up with the their peers. Do we provide these students with the supports they need in school to make progress, or do we blame the illness and throw up our hand in despair? Do we do enough?

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