Mental Health Disorders

A dreary black and white picture with a man looking at his hand on a window, with the scene outside made up of bleak looking, run-down factories and rail yards.

Learning Objectives

This module will help you to:

  1. Explain the effects of mental health disorders on learning in the classroom.
  2. Understand the types of accommodations or other support that can help meet the educational needs of students with mental health conditions.
  3. Know how to support students with mental health disorders.


According to the American Psychiatric Association (2013), it is not possible to come up with an exact definition of just what constitutes a mental health disorder. However, someone is considered to have a mental health disorder when that person's mood or thinking processes adversely impact their functioning in such a way that the person experiences marked impairments in social, academic, or occupational functioning. Fluctuations in mood and occasionally having unusual thoughts thoughts are both typical phenomena. They become an area for intervention when they interfere with a person's ability to cope with everyday life. According to Carr (2009), mental health disorders can be caused by biological, psychological, or social issues, or by some combination of the three. Common mental health issues include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Most mental health disorders are not readily visible to other people, yet these conditions are remarkably common. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (2014), at any given time 1 in 5 Canadians is dealing with a significant mental health issue. This means that all of us know someone - be it ourselves, a family member, a friend, a classmate, a co-worker, or a neighbour - who is struggling with a difficult psychological issue.

 Five typical diverse college or university students, all facing the camera and smiling. The point is that mental health disabilities are invisible.