Mental health awareness month begins May 1, and efforts are being made nationwide and on BYU-Idaho’s campus to raise awareness about various disabilities people deal with daily.
BYU-I Disability Services, located on the first floor of the David O. McKay Library, offers help, support and resources to students with disabilities or disorders to ensure academic success.
Disability Services provides help with various disabilities that range from physical, emotional and mental disorders, according to the BYU-I Disability Services Web page.
Wade Gordon, director of Disability Services, said his main role is to ensure students diagnosed with a disability have an equal opportunity to gain an education.
“What I do is meet individually with students who have a diagnosed disability,” Gordon said. “They come in and initiate the process, and then we talk about what their disability is, look at their diagnosis and see how it impacts major life functions — one of them being school.”
Gordon said Disability Services supports a variety of conditions, such as ADHD, anxiety, Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism and depression.
Gordon said if a student’s disability is impacting them academically, Disability Services will implement accommodations in an academic setting by working with the student’s teachers, providing extra time on tests or assignments and providing resources such as transcribers if a student is deaf.
Joseph Meldrum, a BYU-I alumnus who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, said most of the time people do not know how to treat someone who has a disability of some sort.
“I feel just because someone has a diagnosis doesn’t mean you have to treat them different,” Meldrum said. “Your first inclination when meeting a person is to treat them like a person. You can then adjust from there.”
Meldrum said that a lot of the time, dealing with a disability every day can be very overwhelming and difficult.
“You don’t have to do it alone,” Gordon said. “I meet with a lot of students, usually in a crisis situation because they’ve held out for so long that they have this sense of going through this by themselves.”
Gordon said disabilities are out of one’s control and students should know there are help and resources available to them.
“Come talk to someone who can level that playing field as much as possible from the start,” Gordon said. “We’ll make sure there are resources available to you that will help you be more successful.”
Gordon said students should treat people with respect and that a lot of the myths and misconceptions about people with disabilities come from a lack of understanding and knowledge about the issue.
“Don’t assume, and don’t be judgmental,” Gordon said. “We never know what people are going through, and we never know what’s going on or what their life experience has been.”
Meldrum said one of the main misconceptions he has noticed from students is that once they learn a person has been diagnosed with some sort of disability or disorder, they assume something must be wrong with that person.
“It’s difficult to know where your place is when you’re treated differently just because you have a diagnosis,” Meldrum said. “I don’t feel different from anybody else.”
Meldrum said to treat someone who has been diagnosed with a disability as a person.
“Don’t try to cheer up someone who has depression, don’t try to fix someone who has autism, don’t try to isolate someone because of a physical disability — just be their friend,” Meldrum said.
For more information about BYU-I Disability Services, visit the Web page.
“Come, and don’t be afraid to talk to people and reach out,” Gordon said. “Let people know about your situation or else they won’t know how to help you.”