Becker, M., Martin, L., Wajeeh, E., Ward, J., & Shern, D. (2002). Students with mental illnesses in a university setting: Faculty and student attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and experiences . Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal , 25 (4), 359–368. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0095001
The perspectives of postsecondary faculty members and students on mental illness—including attitudes, beliefs, and orientation toward postsecondary students with mental illness—were investigated. Academic accommodations and supports accessed through faculty actions were emphasized in this summary, including referral to the disability services office, extended time for exams, separate or specialized exam room, and exemptions from exams.
A total of 315 faculty members at the University of South Florida (in the U.S.) responded to and completed an educator survey; all 1,482 faculty members had been invited to respond. Demographic and other characteristics of faculty respondents were reported, including sex (male/female), age, race/ethnicity, college affiliation (arts and sciences, business, education, engineering, and medicine/health), level (undergraduate/graduate), and teaching years of experience. A total of 1,901 postsecondary students responded to and completed a student survey; a 15% random sampling (n=4,924) of the postsecondary population had been further stratified to represent academic colleges and academic years of study, with an over-sampling of graduate students. Demographic and other characteristics of student respondents were reported, including sex (male/female), age, race/ethnicity, college affiliation (arts and sciences, business, education, engineering, and medicine/health), and level (undergraduate/graduate). Student respondents included those with and without disabilities.
The surveys were developed by the researchers and used a 4-point rating scale, including the responses "never," "rarely," "sometimes," and "often." One survey, with nine items, was designed for students without disabilities, and the other version with 29 items, was for faculty members. Both surveys included 9 similarly-worded items, primarily measuring attitudes toward students with mental illness and self-perception of ability to recognize mental illnesses. The faculty survey had additional components, including sets of items on their confidence in helping students with mental illness, on their social distance from and comfort with students with mental illness, and on their experiences supporting students with mental illness including providing accommodations for exams, such as extended time and separate testing space, as well as other classroom supports.
Students and faculty members tended to have similar overall attitudes, with some differences in their survey responses. The researchers commented, "while most faculty and students have positive expectations for the success of students with mental illnesses, many ... [were] not uniformly positive or knowledgeable" (p. 361) of available university services or supports for students with mental illness. A total of 202 of the 315 faculty members reported having had experiences with students whom they believed to have mental illnesses. Of these 202 faculty members, about 80% reported that they discussed supports with those students, about 80% provided extra exam time, about 32% referred them to disability support services, and about 11% exempted students with mental illness from an exam; only about 3% had not provided any exam or classroom accommodations. Faculty members who indicated discomfort or judgment toward mental illness tended to make few (or no) referrals or provide few (or no) accommodations. Faculty members' confidence in supporting students with mental illness and discomfort/judgment were inversely related. The only personal characteristic of faculty members that was linked with higher incidence of providing accommodations and making referrals was being in the health sciences faculty.