The Wall Street Journal: “A Serious Illness or an Excuse?”

As mental health problems become less stigmatizing, more college students are comfortable asking their professors for test extensions and excused absences due to bouts of depression and panic attacks.

Schools say they are seeing a rise in the number of students registering with their disability offices due to psychological problems. At Pace University in New York, the number of requests for accommodations from students with disabilities related to psychological disorders tripled in the last three years according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

But there’s hand-wringing among university administrators and faculty about how to support college students with mental health issues while making sure young adults progress academically. One of the goals of college, after all, is to prepare students for the working world. And not every boss may be OK with a blown deadline for a critical client report, no matter the reason. Professors also want to make sure they’re being fair to all students.

Some formal accommodations, like additional test time, are fairly standard across universities and apply to students with physical and learning disabilities, too. But, schools diverge widely on formal accommodations for flexibility with assignment deadlines, class attendance and participation. Some schools leave it up to individual instructors. Others intervene more directly on students’ behalf.

School of Law Conference to Focus on Mental Illness, April 8

As many as 1.4 million people with symptoms of schizophrenia or manic-depressive illness do not receive treatment. Recently, a schizophrenic man with a 20-year history of mental illness pushed a woman to her death onto the tracks of an oncoming subway car in New York City; a drifter with schizophrenia allegedly murdered two policemen in an assault on the U.S. Capitol in July. Who is to blame when a mentally ill patient commits a violent act?

Contact: Public Affairs
(212) 346-1637
“Playing the Psychiatric Odds: Predicting Dangerousness”

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – As many as 1.4 million people with symptoms of
schizophrenia or manic-depressive illness do not receive treatment.
Recently, a schizophrenic man with a 20-year history of mental illness
pushed a woman to her death onto the tracks of an oncoming subway car
in New York City; a drifter with schizophrenia allegedly murdered two
policemen in an assault on the U.S. Capitol in July. Who is to blame
when a mentally ill patient commits a violent act?

Pace University Law School and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine
will co-sponsor a one-day conference titled “Playing the Psychiatric
Odds: Can We Protect the Public by Predicting Dangerousness?” from
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, April 8 at Pace University Law School,
78 N. Broadway, White Plains.

“After attacks such as these, there is usually a public outcry to lock
up all mentally-ill patients, and a call to impose a higher duty of
care on the psychiatrists and psychologists,” said Professor Linda
Fentiman, Director of the Health Law and Policy Program at Pace.
“But that’s unrealistic. There is a myth that these professionals
are clairvoyant: that they can predict the future and protect the
public in a significant way.”

The conference will examine several important questions: Can mental
health professionals do a better job at predicting violence? How
can they balance concern for the patient, including confidentiality,
with the need to protect the public?

Sociologist Henry Steadman, who has tracked the release of mentally
ill patients from psychiatric hospitals, will provide the keynote
address on how to assess the risk of violence among the mentally ill.
A 1998 MacArthur Foundation study found that seriously mentally ill
individuals committed twice as many acts of violence prior to
hospitalization, when they were not taking medication, compared with
the time of their release, when most of them were taking medication.
But can health care providers require patients to take medication
without violating the patients’ civil rights? Can they civilly
commit all potentially dangerous individuals?

The conference also will address issues surrounding workplace violence,
domestic violence, and Megan’s Law as they relate to predicting violent
behavior and preventing harm. Other topics will include, “Liability
of psychiatrists under New York law for failing to identify dangerous
patients,” “Current issues in the psychiatrist-patient relationship:
Out-patient civil commitment, psychiatric abandonment, and the duty to
continue treatment of potentially dangerous patients,” and “Balancing
public protection with duties to patients.”

For more information about the conference, or to register, call
(914) 422-4223. The cost is $89. The media and the public are invited
to attend. For Continuing Legal Education credit, call (914) 422-4203.

Founded in 1976, Pace University School of Law has nearly 5,000 alumni/ae
throughout the country. It offers full- and part-time day and evening
J.D. programs on its White Plains, New York, campus. The School also
offers the Master of Laws in Environmental Law and in Comparative Legal
Studies. The School, which has one of the nation’s top-rated environmental
law programs, also offers the doctoral S.J.D. program in that field. The
School of Law is part of a comprehensive, independent and diversified
University with campuses in New York City and Westchester County.