Whilst having a mental health problem can make it difficult to carry on with normal daily life, it is important that students are not put in a position whereby they have to give up on academic life too quickly. Many problems can be resolved, or the effects can be minimised to the point where study can be resumed.
Some students may need to take time out until they are feeling more in control, others may need to reduce their workload to make things more manageable, whereas some may be able to continue with their studies throughout.
Whether a student has developed a mental health problem for the first time, or has a previously acquired condition, they should expect:
- To have access medical treatment if required
- Their educational institution to honour its duties to them by making reasonable adjustments in order to take into account the nature of their problems
- Not to be discriminated against on the basis of their disability
The information given here does not constitute legal advice, but is intended to raise some of the issues which need to be considered by students, staff and institutions.
Equality Act 2010
In October 2010 the Equality Act provided a single legal framework to address disadvantage and discrimination. It incorporated previous legislation around disability, race and gender. The Act states:
'You must not discriminate against a student:
- in the way you provide education for the student
- in the way you give the student access to a benefit, facility or service
- by not providing education for the student
- by not affording the student access to any benefit, facility or service
- by excluding the student
- by subjecting them to any other detriment'
What can Educational Institutions do?
It is important to ensure policies, practices and procedures are in place and reviewed regularly to check that they comply with the relevant legislation. Such policies need to be fluid and flexible enough to adapt to and accommodate different students' requirements which will change over time.
Staff training is crucial, not just for academic staff but also those in a support role. Staff need to be made fully aware of their and the institution's requirements under the Act and the implications of these on the institution's education provision and delivery.
For further resources relating to disability and mental health legislation click on the link.