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Psychiatr Serv. 2008 Apr;59(4):370-5. doi: 10.1176/ps.2008.59.4.370.

Familiarity with and use of accommodations and supports among postsecondary students with mental illnesses.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.



Many persons with serious mental illnesses are interested in pursuing postsecondary education and are doing so in increasing numbers. Accommodations can be essential, but limited research suggests that few formally seek accommodations, although increased efforts to heighten awareness may be changing this. The purpose of this study was to examine whether students with mental illnesses are increasingly aware of, and utilize, accommodations and academic supports and to identify the supports that are most used and perceived to be most helpful.


A national Internet survey was conducted from July 2005 to July 2006, resulting in responses from 190 current and 318 former students with mental illnesses.


The study found modest but significant negative correlations between how long ago students left college and their familiarity with accommodations, their request for or receipt of accommodations, and their use of the Office for Students With Disabilities. These results were particularly noticeable when comparing current and former students. Moderate positive correlations that were significant were found between familiarity with accommodations, use of campus disability offices, and request for or receipt of accommodations.


There is increased awareness and use of accommodations among students with mental illnesses, but it is also clear that most receive supports directly from instructors without going through the formal accommodations process. Encouraging students to utilize disability offices and greater attention to accommodation barriers may further increase support seeking. Supports that are most used and viewed as most helpful provide direction for service providers and campus personnel in their efforts to facilitate students' educational goals.

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