Mental Health Accommodation Fail

When I began my social work education in 2007 at Ryerson University I avoided getting accommodations. I didn’t want to prove that I was “sick” and I didn’t want to deal with the potential “looks” and comments that I may get as a person reads over my note that says I have depression (which I did at the time). I also didn’t have a psychiatrist to write this note. Now, I did very well without supports (graduating on time in 2011, with many A’s in my classes) and that doesn’t change that it was the fear of people knowing that kept me from reaching out for help when I needed it.

When I went back to school for early childhood education at George Brown College in 2013 I was on Effexor, in a horrible relationship, and feeling suicidal. I had come a long way with my mental health and my identity. I knew I would have to claim I had a disability (which I do not believe I have) because it would give me what I felt I needed to be successful. I still had to talk myself into it and felt sick to my stomach handing over my psychiatric evaluation (Note: psychiatric evaluations are NOT required for proof of disability. This was all I had and because it was only a year old they accepted it as I did not have access to a psychiatrist again.). I was terrified that the faculty member would read “borderline personality” and completely lose it! I was going into a profession where I would be working with child! What would they think of me and my ability seeing that I am labeled as emotionally unstable?! Will they kick me out of the program?! What if everyone sees this? Who will see this?! Can I trust them to keep my diagnosis safe? In reality, everything was fine. I still dreaded that that piece of paper was now in my student file and it said that I had a borderline personality. I ended up never using the accommodation services because they didn’t actually accommodate my needs. Mental health accommodations are currently cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all. I’m glad they help some and they didn’t help me. I was actually told by one faculty member who was giving me some time management and organization strategies that I had been “snuck in”. The strategies she offers are only supposed to be for people with learning disabilities. Her strategies were nothing new to me either, I already did a handful of them. My issue wasn’t organizing and managing my time. My issue was

I ended up never using the accommodation services because they didn’t actually accommodate my needs. Mental health accommodations are currently cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all. I’m glad they help some and they didn’t help me. I was actually told by one faculty member who was giving me some time management and organization strategies that I had been “snuck in”. The strategies she offers are only supposed to be for people with learning disabilities. Her strategies were nothing new to me either, I already did a handful of them. My issue wasn’t organizing and managing my time. My issue was memory and emotional instability. I wanted to write essays instead of tests (would I rather a 60% on a test or an 80% on an essay of the same topic?) and I wanted to have some leniency in why things might be late or why I may not come to class. I did not get this. I did very well in this program on my own. I made the Dean’s List for the Fall Semester and won an award for my excellence in my field placement. I would have also made Dean’s List for the Winter and graduated with honors if I had finished the program (leaving my 5 year relationship put it on hold and now going back would be too financially painful).

Many would probably say that since I succeed in school that meant I didn’t need accommodations. Maybe. I see it as I had no choice. I had to push aside what I was feeling and experiencing and keep going because no one at the school had my back. This is not to say that students who benefit from accommodations are not struggling and having to push themselves because they are. I often recommend to friends who are struggling to lighten their course load and apply for accommodations.  It just feels bad to know that there is nothing to catch you if you fall.

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6 thoughts on “Mental Health Accommodation Fail

  1. Pingback: A Mental Health Win or Fail? | Pride in Madness

  2. It’s really a shame that there is not more help out there for those who need it. And putting your mental health status on report is such a scary thing. I commend you for finishing your courses without using accommodations.

  3. I’m so sorry that you understand this. I think the whole need to fill out a form saying that mental health issues make us “disabled” is wrong. We shouldn’t have to claim to have a disability just to have schools help us. I, too, don’t believe I have a disability and it killed me to have to be labeled that way, even if it was only for one class to be able to take a test in a room I felt more comfortable in. Thank you for sharing your story. If you’re interested in reading a little more about mine, here’s a link.

    https://gettingthroughanxiety.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/labeling-why-its-not-always-a-good-thing/

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