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Mental health/psychiatric disabilities

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Mental health (psychiatric) disorders involve disturbances in thinking, emotion, and behaviour. These disorders are caused by complex interactions between physical, psychological, social, cultural, and hereditary influences. The terms mental illness or psychiatric disability are used interchangeably. The term refers to people with mental health problems that may limit their major life activities during periods of illness. Major life activities include caring for oneself, working and learning.

Types of Diagnosis

Social anxiety
Specific phobias
Eating disorders

Bipolar disorder
Panic disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder
Obsessive compulsive disorders
Substance abuse

Qualifying Professional



Students requesting accommodations on the basis of a psychiatric disability must provide documentation from a professional who has undergone comprehensive training and has relevant experience in differential diagnosis and the full range of psychiatric disorders (e.g., registered clinical psychologists, psychiatrists or other relevantly trained medical doctors). The documentation for students requesting accommodations on the basis of a psychiatric disability needs to include:

  1. A specific, current psychiatric diagnosis as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV (DSM- IV -TR) of the American Psychiatric Association (2002), which indicates the nature, frequency and severity of the symptoms upon which the diagnosis was predicated. A diagnosis without an explicit listing of current symptoms is not sufficient. Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED) is not an acceptable diagnosis at the post secondary level.
  2. Primary and secondary Axis I and Axis II diagnoses.
  3. Prescribed medications, dosages and schedules which may influence the types of accommodations provided, including any possible side effects.
  4. An indication of whether or not the student was evaluated while on medication, and whether or not the prescribed treatment produced a positive response.
  5. An integrated summary which:

Indicates the substantial limitations to major life activities posed by the psychiatric disability,
Describes the extent to which these limitations would impact the academic context for which accommodations are being requested,
Suggests how the specific effects of the psychiatric disability may be accommodated, and
States how the effects of the psychiatric disability are mediated by the recommended accommodations.