Supporting Students: A Model Policy for Colleges and Universities

Publication Date: May 2007

Publisher: Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law


Research Area: Health

Keywords: Non-punitive mental health care; Americans with Disabilities Act; Suicide prevention

Type: Brief

Coverage: United States


There is broad agreement that colleges and universities should encourage students to seek counseling when they feel depressed or overwhelmed, or otherwise have mental health needs. It is a welcome development that on most campuses students now have access to counseling services that are confidential and free of charge. There is no consensus, however, on how schools should respond when students are in crisis, particularly if they manifest self-injurious thoughts or behavior or appear to pose a potential threat to others. Too often colleges and universities lack a comprehensive plan for addressing such situations or respond to such students in punitive ways, requiring them to leave or evicting them from college/university housing. Some students may even be charged with disciplinary violations for suicidal gestures or thoughts.

The Bazelon Center offers this model policy to help colleges and universities navigate these complex issues and develop a nondiscriminatory approach to a student who is in crisis because of a mental health problem. It is a collection of best practices that all colleges and universities can and should adopt. It places particular emphasis on how to deal fairly and non-punitively with students in crisis, and how to support those whose mental health problems may be interfering with their academic, extracurricular or social lives.