In terms of academic petitions, it is not uncommon for students with mental health disabilities to make requests on numerous occasions. With the episodic nature of their illness, they cannot always determine when they will experience a set-back. Even with a reduced course load, they can have difficulties that impact on their studies. While stress plays a role in the status of their mental health, sometimes they experience unexpected relapses that are not necessarily determined by environmental factors. As a result, they often petition after the official drop date to withdraw from courses without academic penalty, and on more than one occasion.
Some of the reasons for their petition(s) may include:
- They become ill after the drop date.
- They become ill before the drop date but, as they are unable to predict the duration or intensity of their symptoms, believe that they will get better and be able to complete the course.
- They got through their academic year in the past and believe they can succeed again.
- They believe that staying enrolled and involved will aid recovery.
- They remain in the course, arrange for deferred standing, but their health does not improve.
- They have already put a great deal of time into their course work.
- Medication changes have unforeseen effects.
- Their judgment may have been impaired when they were not well and they did not make the best decision(s) at the time (e.g., drop the course on time).
- Their increase in symptoms may have left them with very little energy to take care of details such as withdrawing from a course before the drop date or to petition in a timely fashion.
- They may be afraid to petition on time, believing that they don't deserve to and that their request will be denied.
The request for academic accommodations by students with mental health disabilities should be considered, neither with harshness nor with leniency, but with fairness and understanding of how their illness affects their lives as students. Their decision to petition is not made lightly, and is usually discussed with their educational advisor. They are not trying to take advantage of the system. Granting a petition for these students is not meant to create a pattern of learned helplessness or dependency. It is meant to reduce the systemic barriers for a group of students who take their studies seriously, who succeed at university and who have a positive contribution to make to campus life.