Support with school and work

How to take care of your mental health while achieving your educational and professional goals.

Why get support for school or work?

Sometimes mental health challenges can make regular activities such as school and work extremely difficult. Just like you wouldn’t go to school or work if you had a fever, for example, it’s important to take time to care for your emotional wellbeing, too –even if it means taking a mental health day (or a few), reducing your workload, or accepting accommodations.  

Millions of people struggle with mental health issues every day, and with the right support, continue to to meet their goals, and often discover new interests and strengths along the way. The better you feel, the more you will be able to accomplish. Trust us, you are not alone!

“Go for it! I am doing what is important to me and that matters a lot. Learn the interpersonal skills you need to be comfortable around other people. Enjoy life, and most of all, be kind to yourself while you work hard. Do what you love. Be you. You are unique and have a lot to offer.”

Where should I begin?

If your mental health hinders your ability to focus in school or at work, the best thing you can do is to speak with a trusted adult – such as a parent, teacher, coach, or counselor – about what’s going on. Let them know how you’re feeling, and if you can, try to explain how it’s affecting your day-to-day activities. Here are a few suggestions to help.

  • Think about what you feel comfortable sharing before having the talk.

  • Set aside an undistracted time that works for you and them.

  • Ask for their support.

  • Share resources (like this blog post) to help educate them.

We know it can be a difficult topic. You might be afraid of their response – that they’ll get upset, or overreact, or dismiss what you’re feeling as “just a phase.” But it’s important to remember that, while talking to a trusted adult can be hard, the effort is worth it. There’s nothing wrong with asking for support, and having an adult ally in your court is often an important step toward getting the care you need.  Not sure where to begin? Take these steps to talk about mental health with your parents or a trusted adult and find the resources you need.

“Seek out mentors who understand what you’re up against and are genuinely supportive. Connecting with other students with similar experiences can be invaluable. Trailblazing is never easy!”

Academic accommodations 

To be your most successful self, you may require certain accommodations within an academic or professional setting. Under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you are entitled to certain accommodations that enable you to work better and more efficiently. 

Accommodations may include: preferential seating, taking breaks, use of a recording device or notetaker, extended time for test taking, private feedback on performance, and use of assistive computer software, among several others. Here’s how to go about requesting them:

K-12 Schools

Accommodations can generally be made upon request by working with a school counselor, and are formally implemented through either a 504 Plan or  Individualized Education Plan (learn more about each of these here).  

Universities & Colleges

Students should reach out to their university’s disability service center or psychological services center to create a request for accommodations. Additionally, students may have to share a letter of accommodation with each of their professors to ensure accommodations are provided.

Workplace Accommodations

Just as people’s skills and strengths at work vary, so too do their unique needs to help them with productivity and performance. Accommodations for employees can depend on each company's written policies,  but may include the following. 

  • Flexible work from home policies: having the ability to work from home permanently or at a cadence that meets your health needs  

  • Flexible schedules and leave time: whether you need to shift to a part-time schedule, adjust your work hours, or require flexible use of paid time off for  mental health recovery, flexible schedule accommodations enable you to negotiate a schedule (or time away) that fits your needs 

  • Breaks: taking more frequent or as many breaks as you need throughout the day can help ease stress and improve productivity

  • Flexible workspaces: having the ability to reduce distractions from your work area or use a private space as needed 

  • Supportive environment: some employers may provide a space to rest or store medications, the ability to record meetings for easy reference, or white noise machines to reduce other sounds 

These are just a few of the types of accommodations available in workplace settings. Check in with your employer to learn more about what your company offers or read more about what’s covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you are an employer, you can learn more about best practices for promoting and supporting workplace mental health from the World Health Organization.

Supported employment

Getting support sometimes means taking an unexpected turn in your school or career path. Although that can feel scary, try to keep the bigger picture in view. Finding and maintaining employment while living with a mental health challenge can be difficult, but specialized case managers and resources exist to help you conduct a successful job search and keep your job. “Supported employment” refers to rehabilitative programs that help people with mental health challenges find and retain their jobs. Individual Placement and Support program (IPS) is the most researched model of supported employment, focused on supporting people to achieve not just any job, but a competitive job in a field of their choosing, where they can maximize their career goals and earning potential. 

Education and technical training are included in these programs to keep you competitive within your field. If you are looking or having trouble finding employment, look into assistance from an IPS-trained employment specialist, a local university, or career counselor.

“There ARE people out there who care and who can help.  Seek them out. You also have the ability within you to help yourself if you seek it.”

Youth quotes used with permission from the Voices Outside project.