Disability Identity and Use of Services Among College Students With Psychiatric Disabilities


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Abstract

With the increasing number of undergraduate students with psychiatric disabilities enrolling in college, and the disproportionately high attrition rates in this group, the current study aimed to understand these students’ experiences and identify barriers that they face in higher education contexts. Specifically, whereas past research suggests that students’ endorsement of a “disability identity” impacts the proactive utilization of valuable academic accommodations and promotes students’ academic success, little is known about the meanings that underlie students’ disability identity and how it is formed, shaped, and maintained within the college context. The current phenomenological study investigated the processes by which 5 undergraduate students with psychiatric disabilities in a large public research university made meaning of their disability, and how their disability identity motivated their use of disability support services. The analysis of a series of interviews with each student highlighted the dynamic nature of students’ disability identity and its formation through interactions with others and through participation in various activities and experiences in the college context.

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