Faculty Perceptions of Accommodations, Strategies, and Psychiatric Advance Directives for University Students With Mental Illnesses

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Objective: Universities across the country struggle with the legal and ethical dilemmas of how to respond when a student shows symptoms of serious mental illness. This mixed-method study provides information on faculty knowledge of mental health problems in students, their use of available accommodations and strategies, and their willingness to accept psychiatric advance directives (PADs) as helpful interventions for managing student crises. Method: Participants were 168 faculty members at a large, public, Southern university. A web-based survey was used to collect quantitative self-report data as well as qualitative data in the form of open-ended questions. Quantitative data are presented with descriptive statistics. Qualitative data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Results: The majority of faculty surveyed have an overall supportive stance and are willing to provide accommodations to students with a mental illness. The most common advantage faculty see in a PAD is support of student autonomy and choice, and the primary concern voiced about PADs is that students with mental illness will have poor judgment regarding the contents of the PADs they create. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: PADs may be effective recovery tools to help university students with mental illnesses manage crises and attain stability and academic success. For PADs to be effective, university faculty and administration will need to understand mental illnesses, the strategies students need to manage mental health crises, and how PADs can play a role in supporting students.

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