Reduce Back To School Stress for High School and College Students

Heading back to school creates an air of excitement and nervousness, whether that means moving or commuting to a campus or attending your area high school. Starting a new year is exciting but often overwhelming for many students. Preparation for this transition should involve a bit more than packing and buying school supplies for students struggling with mental illnesses in order to reduce stress and embrace a successful school year.

The most important preparation students with mental illnesses can make is to speak to their college concerning special needs or have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) while in high school. High school and college students with disabilities due to their illnesses are covered under two different laws. An IEP ends upon high school graduation and will not transfer to college, therefore registering with the disability office in college is essential in order to receive accommodations.

Students with mental illnesses additionally may have to consider the impact medications have on their daily functions. Accommodations may be necessary to circumvent the mitigating measures. For example, if a medication has an effect on a student’s sleep, then a course schedule adjustment may be an accommodation the student needs. Possible accommodations to consider for students diagnosed with mental illnesses include but are not limited to:

  • Housing accommodations – private room, noise reduction floor
  • Academic accommodations – reduced course load, priority registration, course schedule adjustment
  • Testing accommodation – extended time, distraction-reduced environment, test reader
  • Classroom accommodations – class relocation, priority seating

Lastly, know how the student’s health insurance coverage works. For private health insurance there may not be a change, however if the student will be assuming a campus care policy, make sure the coverage is understood and treatment providers are found prior to services being needed. Make sure to have enough medication on hand, as there may be a wait to see a new psychiatrist to renew medications.

A new school year brings enough stress with learning new material but a bit of preparation can help to transition into a successful school year.

Mindy Diaz, NAMI DKK, DeKalb, Kane So and Kendall Counties

Info Corner

*NAMI offers an educational program called BASICS for parents and caregivers of children struggling with the symptoms of mental illness. Learn more by clicking here.