In the classroom

As a faculty or staff member you will likely encounter students with mental health concerns in the classroom. The following pages provide information on good practices for addressing and acknowledging mental health concerns in your classroom. Being prepared to make accommodations, deal with disruptive behavior, address confidentiality and disclosure, and make academic concessions is necessary as a faculty or staff member. 

Classroom information and resources

Promoting Mental Health and Well-being in the classroom

It can be helpful to remind students at various points in the term about the resources that are available to them.  One way to do that is to use these slides on Student Wellness and Self-Care.

UBC has conducted research on how teaching practices influence student mental health and wellbeing. You can find that research here.

Positive well-being is a key predictor for learning and student success. Explore SFU’s work on well-being in learning environments here.

Syllabus statement

Students have found it helpful when instructors include statements on syllabi promoting mental health and well-being.

Here is a sample syllabus statement. Feel free to use this one or create one of your own.

A note to remind you to take care of yourself. Diminished mental health can interfere with optimal academic performance. Do your best to engage in self-care and maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress. All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. The source of symptoms might be related to your course work; if so, please speak with me. However, problems with other parts of your life can also contribute to decreased academic performance. The UVic Counselling Services provides cost-free and confidential mental health services to help you manage personal challenges that impact your emotional or academic well-being.

Academic Accommodations

If a student has been diagnosed with a mental health concern, academic accommodations may be provided in order for the student to meet essential course requirements. As an instructor, it is important to know the correct information to pass along to students about academic accommodations. 

What are academic accommodations?

Academic accommodations provide students with disabilities an alternative means of meeting essential requirements of a course or program. A variety of academic accommodations may be available for undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities that have documented disabilities. 

The university’s Academic Accommodation and Access for Students with Disabilities policy (AC1205) aspires to:

"…make the university as accessible as possible so that students with disabilities can participate in the activities of the university as equal members of the university community."

Resources

The Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL) can provide more information.

Academic Concessions

Students whose academic performance is affected by injury, personal/family affliction or illness and who are unable to complete a course may be eligible for academic concessions and have several options. Options depend on timing, circumstances and whether the coursework can be completed. As a faculty or staff member you play a key role in academic concessions for students.

Additional information on academic concessions for undergraduate students can be found on the UVic Registrar's website.

Academic concession for graduate students

Information on academic concessions for graduate students can be found here.

Appeals

Students who are seeking information or guidance on their rights, responsibilities or information related to appeals about academic concessions or other appeals may be referred to the Ombudsperson office.

The ombudsperson is an independent, impartial and confidential resource for students and other members of the University of Victoria community. 

Confidentiality and Disclosure

Discussing a student’s mental health in a supportive, respectful and non-judgmental manner is important. When a student discusses mental health concerns with you, it is important to be clear about the limits of your ability to keep that information confidential. Even if a student insists, it is important to never promise absolute confidentiality. Instead, let the student know that you will respect their privacy to the best of your ability, but that certain situations may require you to inform or consult others.

It is important to not withhold information about a student if you have serious concerns about the physical safety of the student or others, or if you have reason to believe that the student is not able to care for themselves. If you have any confidentiality concerns, please consult the university’s Chief Privacy Officer  to ensure that the situation is handled appropriately.

Disruptive classroom behaviour

The University of Victoria is committed to promoting critical academic discourse while providing a respectful and productive learning environment. All members of the university community have the right to experience, and the responsibility to help create, such an environment. 

Some disruptive students may have emotional or mental health conditions but are expected to adhere to the same standards of behaviour as other students. Instructors should set clear standards and expectations for classroom behaviour early in the course.

Tips

When a student is being disruptive in the academic environment, the following tips may help you communicate and set out behavioural expectations for the student:

  1. The instructor should initially speak with the student outside of the classroom to discuss any incidents and review classroom behavioural expectations. During this discussion, the instructor should clearly express the behaviours of concern and how it is impeding the learning process and academic environment.

    As there are a wide variety of disruptive behaviours possible, the instructor may want to discuss the student’s behaviour with Counselling Services if the behaviour appears to involve potential mental health issues. The Office of Student Life, Health Services, Campus Security, Learning and Teaching Centre, or the Ombudsperson could also be helpful resources to consult for guidance on facilitating dialogue and setting out clear expectations to the student around appropriate classroom behaviour.

  2. As required, the instructor may facilitate a meeting with the student and the department Chair or Dean to review any incidents, behavioural issues and to discuss expectations and supports available. 

    A checklist for a discussion with a student on disruptive classroom behaviour could include:

    • reviewing the behaviours that are of concern (e.g., any behaviours or communications of concern)
    • emphasizing that the university is committed to a safe, respectful and productive learning environment and discuss how the student’s’ behaviour is affecting the academic environment
    • clarifying that the university is committed to working with the student to find ways to resolve concerns satisfactorily
    • highlighting appropriate student support services (e.g., Health ServicesCounselling ServicesCAL, etc.) available if the student is currently experiencing difficulties.

Significant classroom conduct concerns

There are some occasions where unacceptable and disruptive classroom conduct persists to the point that allegations of non-academic misconduct should be filed through the Office of Student Life. In such cases, an investigation under the Resolution of Non-Academic Misconduct Allegations policy (AC1300) may be required to resolve the concerns.

Violent or Threatening Classroom Behaviour

Immediately report a student’s behaviour in the classroom that is dangerous, threatening or violent by calling 9-1-1 and Campus Security at 250-721-7599. 

It is important to be aware of the following UVic resources for emergency preparedness information: