The Bazelon Center believes that colleges and universities should be committed to the success of all their students and should encourage students to seek counseling when they feel depressed or overwhelmed or otherwise have mental health needs. Yet some schools lack comprehensive policies for responding to students with mental health issues or do so in discriminatory or punitive ways, requiring them to leave school or evicting them from college/university housing. Some charge students with disciplinary violations for suicidal gestures or thoughts. Such measures discourage students from seeking help. They isolate students from social and professional supports—friends and understanding counselors and teachers—at a time of crisis, increasing the risk of harm.
Schools often respond to students with mental health needs in ways that violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, colleges and universities may not exclude students because of their mental health needs, except when the student cannot meet academic and behavioral standards even with treatment and other help. In addition, schools must provide students with disabilities “reasonable accommodations” —modifications to normal rules and procedures that enable students to continue and succeed in higher education.
The Bazelon Center has created Supporting Students: A Model Policy for Colleges and Universities to support students with mental health needs and to ensure that schools’ actions toward students are nondiscriminatory. The model was developed after consultation with mental health experts, higher education administrators, counselors and students. We also offer a guide, developed by a group of young leaders, for students seeking help for mental health issues.
New Campus Mental Health Partnership with Steptoe & Johnson LLP
The Bazelon Center is excited to announce a new partnership with Steptoe & Johnson LLP that will help college and university students facing discrimination due to their mental health disabilities. The partnership will focus on providing legal counseling to students who contact Bazelon about problems they face at school, including difficulties obtaining reasonable accommodations, issues with taking voluntary medical leaves or being forced to take involuntary leaves of absence, and being disciplined for conduct related to their disability. Thanks to this partnership, more students who contact Bazelon about a campus mental health issue will receive assistance, and Bazelon will be able to generate more awareness about this important issue.
If you or someone you know is a college or university student in need of assistance, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, phone number, city and state where you live, and a description of the matter. Bazelon and Steptoe will review the request and determine whether we can provide legal counseling or other assistance.