higher education

UPenn will offer new course on writing about mental health

Photo of Stephen Fried
Photo of Stephen Fried behind a podium, discussing his new book “Rush: Revolution, Madness, and Benjamin Rush, the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father.” (Image: Wikipedia)

Author, investigative journalist and Columbia J-school professor Stephen Fried will teach a new nonfiction writing course at University of Pennsylvania next semester. The course, which which will focus on writing about mental health and addiction, will be among the first undergraduate courses of its kind in the U.S.

Students taking the spring class, titled “Advanced Nonfiction Writing: Writing about Mental Health and Addiction,” will hear from guest lecturers and will read and discuss writings about behavioral health.

After covering mental health as a journalist for years, Fried said he understands the importance of teaching students how to report on these topics in a nuanced way. Uninformed writing about this subject matter can perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental illness and seeking psychiatric help.

Fried is the author of numerous books about the prescription drug industry and mental illness. In 2015 he co-authored Patrick Kennedy’s memoir A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction.

Read more about Fried’s new class at UPenn here.

College admissions scandal hurts students with disabilities

A stock photo of SAT test scores. A score of 1600 is circled in red colored pencil.
A stock photo of SAT test scores. A score of 1600 is circled in red colored pencil.

Celebrities and wealthy parents involved in the college admissions bribery scheme which recently made headlines took advantage of testing accommodations meant for students with disabilities, federal authorities say. According to court documents, the parents were instructed to lie in order to secure extra time and a private room for their kids to take the SAT or ACT. The parents were told to falsely claim that their children had learning disabilities–and to obtain the necessary medical documentation for proof.

For students with learning disabilities, there is often a discrepancy between academic performance and their intelligence. Advocates for students with learning disabilities believe the scandal could make it harder for students with actual learning disabilities to get the test-taking accommodations they need.

You can read the NPR story about the scandal here.

Class-Action Lawsuit Claims Stanford University Forces Suicidal Students to Leave School

According to an article published in the New York Times on August 28, the lawsuit accuses Stanford of “discriminating against students with mental health issues by coercing them into taking leaves of absences.” The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal cases challenging mental health leave policies at schools like Princeton, George Washington University, Quinnipiac, and Hunter College. Read the New York Times story by Anemona Hartocollis here.

College Mental Health
By Colby Mariam – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Medical schools heighten focus on undergraduate accessibility

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) published a report today outlining common barriers to medical education faced by med school students with disabilities. The research on this topic was prompted by the AAMC‘s desire to promote diversity among its student, faculty and professional membership, and facilitate the standardization of accommodations. The report suggests that, although more medical school students are self-identifying as having disabilities, a culture of competition still promotes stigma around disability. Philadelphia public radio’s (WHYY) Elana Gordon wrote a short article summarizing the AAMC report and the responses it prompted from disability rights advocates.

George Washington University creates disability discrimination task force following federal investigation

George Washington University is creating a special task force to address complaints of digital inaccessibility. Their concern was prompted by a federal investigation headed by the Department of Education into possible disability discrimination. According to the story by GW’s independent student newspaper, The Hatchet, the university previously tried solving the problem using accessibility software but students with disabilities reported the services were still inadequate. Click here to read the full report and learn more about GW’s efforts to improve digital accessibility.

AZ Board of Regents committee rejects new major of Disability Studies

In a column for the Phoenix New Times NCDJ Advisory Board member Amy Silverman advocates for the creation of a Disability Studies major at Arizona universities. A sub-committee of The Arizona Board of Regents accepted requests for new majors last week and approved all the proposed majors except for Disability Studies. Silverman argues that there is a market demand for expertise related to disability issues. Click here to read Silverman’s full column.

College student diagnoses classmate with POTS, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome

Last Friday the student newspaper Iowa State Daily featured an excellent profile of two college women who share the same invisible disability – postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). Laura Wiederholt had been living with the condition for several years and recognized the symptoms described by her friend Taylor Schumacher. With Wiederholt’s encouragement, Schumacher received an official diagnosis and was able to adapt her lifestyle to her new condition. Apparently POTS is more common than people realize but it is underdiagnosed due to symptoms like fatigue and nausea that resemble other illnesses. Check out the article here to learn more about POTS and the students adapting to it.