Psychological Disabilities refer to the chronic disorders in one’s thinking, emotion or behaviour due to the mental, physical or environmental impacts, resulting in the severe influence and suffering in one’s daily life.
Common psychological disabilities include depression, anxiety, bulimia, anorexia, sleep disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, schizophrenia etc. Although everyone shares the possibility of having psychological disorders, generally speaking, as long as s/he finds an effective way to combat the disorder, s/he can return to normal after a period of time. However, people with psychological disabilities may need a much longer time as well as professional intervention to recover.
Similar to other physical or mental disabilities, the symptoms of psychological disabilities are beyond the control of the person concerned. While severe mental disorders may lead to the fluctuations of emotions, disordered thoughts, changes on personality or preference, and even self-mutilation or suicidal thoughts, however, most patients show no injurious behaviour, and can be recovered through psychotherapy, medication and behaviour therapy.
Even though psychological disabilities can cause difficulties to one’s learning, daily life and social interaction, many people who are in therapies and the support of family and friends still manage to overcome difficulties and achieve considerable success. For example, the American mathematician and Nobel Laureate in Economics, Professor John Nash, who has been suffering from schizophrenia; the well-known Hong Kong lyricist Lam Chik, who has been hagridden by depression; the Hong Kong director Alfred Cheung, who had once suffered from anxiety; and many other famous athletes, businessmen, entertainers etc, to name a few.
The analyzing, concentrating, memorizing, interpersonal and self-care abilities that they possessed will be weakened by their mental status, and therefore more energy are needed for them to cope with their daily lives;
They can feel stressed more easily, which leads to insomnia, lack of appetite, poor physical conditions and other physiological problems;
They are more sensitive to negative information, and are incapable of coping with pressure;
Because of their emotional and behavioural instability, they are likely to be isolated and discriminated by their peers, thus causing the feelings of self-abasement and behaviours of social withdrawal and gradually become a vicious cycle;
Some students with psychological disabilities who are under psychotherapy may be affected by the side-effects of the medication.
How to Help Students with Psychological Disabilities
Tips for teachers:
Teachers may discuss with them in private and be familiar with their conditions (including their medication and treatments, the factors easily causing their stress, or their other special needs);
Teachers may arrange in the classroom as much time to rest as possible, or allow the students with psychological disabilities to sit near the exits so that they can go out of the classroom whenever a rest is needed;
Teachers may distribute the course syllabus, schedule and other materials to the students in advance so that they can have adequate time for preparation;
Teachers may allow them to use other methods of note-taking besides copying (such as a voice recorder);
Teachers should meet their special needs in considering extending the time of examination or the deadline for homework, or providing methods of evaluation in order to reduce their pressure;
If teachers need to discuss with them on their academic performance, please carry out the discussion in private.
Tips for students:
Please take the initiative to care for them and to know their sources of stress and the side effects of their psychotropic medication, etc.;
Please accept and support them, encourage and help them in their treatment;
Please discuss with them in advance that how you can help them in case of emergency (such as sudden deterioration of their conditions or the occurrence of injurious behaviours, etc.);
Please understand that their emotions and behaviours are subject to their psychological disabilities, therefore even if unusual situations shall occur between you, do not blame yourself, the other one or any other person for this;
Please be empathetic and try to experience their daily lives, their thoughts and feelings.