Queens University has taken on the challenge to support its students who struggle with mental health issues and lose the stigma to educate resilient scholars by granting accommodations.
The Center for Student Success has long supported Queens’ students providing services such as advising, tutoring and accommodations to those with disabilities. Such accommodations have evolved over the years, and problems such as anxiety, schizophrenia and depression are now considered valid to receive them.
“It’s really important that people know that mental health is actually considered a disability,” said Dr. Cort Schneider, who has a doctorate in cultural studies in education, serves as the director of Student Accessibility Services at Queens. He believes that today’s generation of students is less resilient because of the parameters of society, classes and obsession with social media.
Schneider gave a comparison from when he started working in this field to how the situation stands at Queens now. “I started for example working at a Clark State in 2011 only about 8% of my total population had mental illness or mental health disabilities of some kind”, said Schneider. “And at Queens right now it’s at about 35%, so of the 280 students that I have, 50 to 80 have either an anxiety, depression or both.”
The main goal of the student accessibility service’s office at Queens is to break the stigma that mental health issues aren’t to be taken seriously.
“With this generation of students, mental illness and medical issues are real. This is where the traditional college age generation is more aware, they’re more tolerant of different things but they are less resilient to mental health disorders,” said Schneider. “It’s been stigmatized and that kind of like prevents people from actually coming to get the help.”
Mental health is a global issue and Queens is doing its best to provide as much aid as possible so students can manage these difficulties.
From the student perspective, former Queens student Melton Jackson felt like he lost his identity for quite some time before seeking help from the Student Accessibility Services office. He felt heard at the university and compared his experience, and how welcoming Queens was, as opposed to Central Piedmont Community College. Eventually, Melton dropped out of school in order to finish his book that is getting published in February 2020.
Queens University’s motto thrives on the Yes/And Promise and it goes beyond education. It encompasses vision and engagement. “We’re trying to reach out to stigmatized students and that’s one of my major roles, which is to try to distinguish the notion of mental health and making them comfortable seeking accommodations,” said Schneider. Queens gives students the opportunity to grow regardless of their mental health struggles and welcomes them to an understanding environment.