The term ‘mental health condition’ covers a very wide spectrum, from the worries and grief we all experience as part of everyday life, to the most bleak, suicidal depression or complete loss of touch with everyday reality. A mental health condition only becomes a serious problem when it interferes with your ability to cope or function on a day to day basis or when your behaviour becomes a concern for others. There are many different types of mental health conditions. These include:

  • Attachment disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Phobias
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Post-traumatic stress syndrome
  • Somatic disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Psychotic disorders such as bi-polar

How do mental health conditions affect my learning?

Mental health difficulties affect the ability to learn, the way in which learning takes place, communication, socialising, ability to cope, friendships and relationships. Those experiencing mental health issues often prefer to be passive learners. As such you will need encouragement to join in, as you do not wish to attract attention. You may need pastoral as well as academic support.

Those experiencing mental health issues are often anxious learners. You may have mood swings, days where you feel the burden of learning is overpowering and days when learning seems easy. You may have intrusive thoughts that interfere with concentration. Depression is common as is poor short-term memory.

The side effects of medication may interfere with learning in many ways.

Anxiety: You have greater anxiety than others about learning basic skills.

Concentration and memory: You may be affected by medication – short term memory may be particularly affected.

Variable progress: Progress by be variable due to your mental health, with good days and bad days. This may have an impact on your attendance, punctuality and behaviour.

Stress: This can be brought on by formal tests and exams, resulting in poorer performance than expected.

Further guidance, information and support on Mental Health Conditions go to: MIND,  SANE

You can visit the Health and Wellbeing centre at Old Mill Lane and speak to a member of the Counselling team. More advice is available here.

Strategies to support learning for those with mental health conditions

Support: Communicate with your tutor and build up a relationship so that you can express if you are having a bad day and what the tutor can do to help support your needs. Extra study sessions may be available if you contact your tutor.

Respect confidentiality: If you want to discuss issues make sure that you do this in private, agreeing a time and a location with the tutor.

Managing behaviour: Establish ground rules explaining how your condition affects you and what support you would like to help you with this. Communicate with your tutor seeking help before issues get too big. Agree time-out periods where you can leave the room for short times, if necessary. Identify a place or a room where the time out will be taken. During the time out take the chance to have a drink of water, which may be important to avoid dehydration (caused by some medications).

Observe: Focus on your goals and skills to give yourself a sense of purpose and keep on track.

Teaching and learning styles: Explain which is your best learning style. During tutorials update the tutor on how you are coping both when things are going well and when you are struggling. Early interventions will enable you to continue at College and feel supported. Using handwriting frameworks may be useful to get you started and focused on written work.

Examinations: You may be entitled to exam concessions.

Last updated: 12th Nov 2018