Calvin’s Story

Calvin is enrolled in college in Minnesota. During one semester, Calvin was diagnosed with a mental illness and had to take an extended leave for treatment. The school had a strict attendance policy, and when Calvin requested to re-enroll in his program, the school officials denied his request. Calvin had already invested a great deal of time, money, and energy in his chosen field of study and did not want to walk away from pursuing his education. Moreover, he felt that staying in school would give him the structure and confidence he needed to remain healthy.

The school did not have a policy in place for making accommodations for students with mental health disabilities, but Calvin requested that the school make an accommodation due to his mental illness, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); the school still refused to allow Calvin to re-enroll.

Having exhausted the resources Calvin knew about, he turned to Mental Health Minnesota and spoke with a client advocate. Calvin and the advocate discussed options for how to approach the college to ask that an accommodation be made. The advocate spoke with school officials to educate them about the ADA and how mental illnesses are classified. He also supplied information about specific mental illnesses and the necessity of adequate treatment. He then helped them to make the necessary changes to their policies. As a result, the school administrators decided to create a statement of non-discrimination that will allow future students to stay focused on their treatment and recovery process, with the confidence that they will have the support of the school behind them.

Calvin was able to re-enroll and will complete his program. Now, future students who have mental illnesses will be spared having to fight for their rights at a time when they need to be focused on recovery. With supports like these in place, students will feel more confident in seeking treatment for mental health issues before a crisis is reached, which is a better situation for the individual, as well as for the school.