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What happens if you experience challenges with your mental health while you are in school? The outcome will depend on how long your symptoms last and how intense or troublesome they are. If a mental health condition is interfering with your ability to do your work or activities in school, you should talk to your parents or guardian.
Remember that you are not alone. Before you make decisions about speaking with teachers or administrators at your school and determining what you tell them, speak to your family first. If you are seeing a counselor or therapist, discuss this with them, too. If your school needs to be notified about your mental health condition to request accommodations, like adjusting your schedule or enrolling you in a specialized program, your parent/guardian will need to start that process.
Federal law requires public schools to make what are called “reasonable accommodations” for any ongoing health issue, including mental health, that impacts your ability to perform well at school. However, that can mean different things in different situations, and varies from school district to school district. Your parent or guardian will be your best advocate in helping you secure the services you are entitled to from your school.
You and your parents or guardian should be prepared to explain in detail what you believe you need to be successful with your school work, including things like needing extra time on tests, clear to the school administration.
If you are asking for significant changes or long-term flexibility, like receiving time out of school each week for therapy, your school administration may ask you to provide information from your mental health provider to verify your need for accommodation. Also, they may ask what you are doing (in general) to try to manage or treat your condition. This does not mean you have to explain very personal or clinical details, but if you are requesting flexibility and accommodations, it is not unreasonable for them to want to know that you are already working to manage your mental health condition.
If you will need official or long-term accommodations, each state or school system has a process for doing this. Even if you are given official accommodations, you should still check in with your teachers to let them know how you are doing, what is working well for you and what the problem areas are. That way they can work with you and help you be successful.
The key to managing your mental health while in school is for you, your parents/guardians to stay in communication with the school staff and work together to handle the situation as effectively as possible. It will likely be an ongoing process to learn how to support your success, but your family, friends, health care providers, teachers and administrators are all on your team. You are not alone!
Call the NAMI Helpline at
In a crisis,