Education

Departments Call Attention to Students’ Mental Health Rights

The Departments of Education and Justice released a fact sheet Wednesday on how postsecondary institutions should respond to the mental health needs of their students, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Research has shown an increase in suicidal ideation among young adults throughout the pandemic, according to the Department of Education.

The fact sheet encourages colleges and universities to develop trauma-informed crisis management procedures, provide access to mental health services, offer policy modifications for individual students when appropriate and train employees to respond to signs of distress.

It also reminds institutions that students with mental health disabilities are protected by federal civil rights laws, including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Those laws require colleges and universities to assess an individual student’s circumstance in developing a response to their mental health needs and provide reasonable modifications to institutional policies, practices and procedures as appropriate.

“When schools and postsecondary institutions do not meet these responsibilities, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division can help by enforcing these Federal laws that protect students from discrimination based on disability,” the fact sheet says.

The release of the fact sheet comes in conjunction with World Mental Health Day, which was Oct. 10. It also comes a day after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill canceled classes to mourn the deaths of two students who died by suicide this semester.

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