April 2021, Vol. 7, No. 2
RAISE The Standard Newsletter
Raising the Standard for Young Adults with Disabilities
Technical Assistance and Resources for RSA-funded
Parent Training and Information Centers
Colorful illustration of various figures with brain outlines and differing patterns in their brains

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that one in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness every year. The term “mental illness” includes any disorder that affects one's mood, thinking, or behavior. When it has a negative effect on work, education, relationships, and other aspects of daily life, the condition is known as a psychiatric disability.

Psychiatric disabilities are persistent conditions that may have a significant, lifelong impact. People with psychiatric disabilities may reduce or manage the effects with medication and/or psychotherapy, but even with treatment, the effects of many psychiatric disabilities may persist in some form.

Mental health conditions are common among teens and young adults. Half of all lifetime mental illnesses develop by age 14; 75 percent of lifetime mental illnesses develop by age 24. And it can start very early in life: one in six children ages 2–8 has a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.

This month, as we collectively mark the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, we focus RAISE on mental health conditions and resources for youth in transition from school to adult life.
  • “Depression is not just sadness… You have no energy when you’re depressed.”
  • “My breath gets really, really fast; my heart beats really fast.”
  • “I feel like my stomach starts hurting.”
  • “All I want to do is just forget about all this…” 

These comments could come from any teen or adult talking about stress, anxiety, or depression. But in this video, produced by Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and Oregon Health and Science University, it is six young children who share their perspectives.

Icon illustration of person and book with various statistics about how they feel in college, anxious, overwhelmed, depressed, etc.

For students with mental health issues and psychiatric disabilities, making sure they have the resources they need to maintain their treatment plans when transitioning from home to college life is a major challenge. It involves working with their high school counselor and/or therapist to ensure that they have access to social and clinical supports and, if appropriate, to medication.

Some students develop mental health issues while attending college. Students from low-income and underserved communities are particularly vulnerable. Colleges must be proactive in supporting student well-being, and work to reduce unnecessary stress, substance abuse, and suicide.

Most colleges provide some form of community support and counseling, but all are required to provide necessary accommodations to eligible students with mental health needs.

Accommodations might include:

  • Priority class registration
  • The option to reduce course load
  • Substituting one class for another
  • Access to notetakers and recording devices
  • Individual study skill training
  • Support for specially trained mentors and tutors
  • Extended assignment deadlines and more time on tests
  • A private room when taking tests
  • Transportation services
  • Special on-campus accommodations
  • The ability to switch rooms and/or roommates
  • Leave of absence that does not hinder the student financially or academically

Want to learn more? Check out these resources:

NAMI’s guide, Managing a Mental Health Condition in College:

Best Colleges’ College Guide for Students with Psychiatric Disabilities:


Mental health apps are everywhere these days. These e-tools can be accessed via smartphone or mobile device and offer tools for self-regulation as well as activities intended to improve mood and build skills. Research also suggests that mental health apps have potential as both treatment tools and supplements to traditional therapy.

Mental health apps offer several beneficial features.

  • Accessibility: They are convenient and accessible; they can be a resource for people who struggle to access other options. 
  • Anonymity: Most mental health apps have measures that allow users to find information and access treatment in a way that is private and secure.
  • Convenience: Users can access these tools anywhere and at any time, making them a great option for busy youth. 
  • Engagement: An app can be an engaging and even fun way to learn about mental health and improve well-being. Users can set daily reminders, so regular notifications help them to stay engaged. 

Here are a few apps to check out:
Mood Mission App Icon
MoodMission was developed by mental health professionals to help people with stress, anxiety, or depression. Rooted in evidence-based CBT activities, the app recommends “missions” based on how the user is feeling.
Recovery Record App Icon
RecoveryRecord helps people with eating disorders by allowing them to create healthy meal plans, monitor their urges to binge, and create long-term management systems.
Panic Relief App Icon
Panic Relief features animated displays to discuss proper responses and procedures for panic attacks and other sudden bouts of anxiety.
Rescue Time App Icon
Rescue Time provides tools that can help students learn to become more focused, productive, and motivated, and learn to avoid distraction.
Mood Panda App Icon
Mood-Panda tracks daily emotions using graphs, calendars, and other interactive displays to help students prone to depression, anxiety, and other mood-related disorders.
Shine App Icon
Shine was named best of 2020 by Apple. A female-focused self-care app that addresses self-improvement, it delivers motivational messages through text and audio.
Sam App Icon
Self Help for Anxiety Management (SAM) is a highly-rated app that monitors anxious thoughts and behaviors in order to create sustainable long-term management plans. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/self-help-for-anxiety-management/id666767947
NOTE: Mental illness can be a life-threatening condition. Anyone experiencing symptoms of mental illness should seek professional advice for diagnosis and treatment. Apps are NOT a substitute for evidence-based treatment, but can be used in conjunction with a comprehensive care plan under the supervision of a mental health professional.
Culturally Competent Approaches 

For the Latinx/Hispanic community, mental health and mental illness are often stigmatized, resulting in prolonged silent suffering. This silence compounds the range of experiences that may have contributed to the original mental health condition, including immigration, acculturation, trauma, and generational conflicts. Further, the Latinx/Hispanic community faces unique institutional and systemic barriers that may impede access to mental health services.

Mental Health America offers resources and tools in Spanish that can help.

For the immigrant community, access to care can be complicated by language, culture, insurance access (resources), and citizenship status. Immigrants are more likely to have experienced trauma or witnessed violence, may lack social supports, which leads to substance abuse or domestic violence, and may live in a state of “hiding.”

Mental Health America provides a PowerPoint that details some of the challenges and some of the solutions to supporting this community.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not have an exhaustive list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the landmark civil rights legislation has a general definition of disability: a physical or mental impairment that "substantially limits" one or more major life activity, or a record of such an impairment or that the individual is regarded as having an impairment. While the regulations do list certain medical conditions – including mental and psychological disorders and mental illness – that would easily be considered a "disability" under the law, it is more important to look at HOW the condition affects the individual. In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) advises employers NOT to focus on the lists or definitions, but rather, to look at the accommodation and whether it is reasonable and could be provided without undue hardship.

If a student has a mental illness, is he or she protected by the ADA? 

JAN, the Job Accommodation Network, has a simple set of questions to help answer that question:

  1. Does the employee have an impairment? If yes,
  2. Does the impairment affect a major life activity? If yes,
  3. Does the impairment substantially limit the major life activity? 

Keep in mind: If an impairment is on the EEOC's list of conditions that are virtually always disabilities, get the diagnosis and move on to making the accommodation. If it is not on the list...

  • Consider how limited the employee would be without any mitigating measures.
  • Consider how limited the employee is when the impairment is active.
  • If needed, consider the condition, manner, or duration in which an employee performs a major life activity.

Want more? JAN has information about accommodations for mental health conditions.

EARN’s award-winning Mental Health Toolkit was created to foster a mentally healthy workplace.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) logo

The Youth Mental Health Project educates, empowers, and supports families and communities to better understand and care for the mental health of our youth. They have a bank of free archived webinars on topics in youth mental health.

This month, we are proud to present two bloggers whose work centers on positive thinking as a strategy to shape the future.
Jessica Keogh, M. Ed
Control Your Own Happiness

“After years of on and off struggling with my physical disability, wondering why, [and] being angry and bitter with my circumstances, I found my purpose through these experiences (and more). I found my heart song… I have learned that although I can’t control my circumstances, I can control my happiness.”

- Jessica Keogh, MEd 

Jessica invites readers to find joy and happiness in her blog post Finding My Heartsong.

Aaron Fajerksi
Be Your Best Self

“Just as the process of building physical endurance does not apply only to gym exercises, so the process of building emotional strength can be accomplished in various ways as well... While we may not be able to control all the unfortunate or inconvenient circumstances that happen in our lives, we can always control our responses to those circumstances.”

- Aaron Fajerksi

RAISE Blogger Aaron Fajerkis describes his journey from dependence and over-reliance on others, to self-advocacy and self-determination.

April 19, 2021 Webinar
A Framework for Individual Youth Empowerment, featuring Ali Hrasok, MA.
This webinar will take a look at frameworks for individual youth empowerment and discuss strategies for utilizing them as you develop programming at your own agencies and organizations.

May 17, 2021 Webinar
A Framework for Collective Youth Empowerment
This webinar will take a look at combining previous frameworks and discussing how to support collective youth empowerment as well as strategies for utilizing them as you develop programming at your own agencies and organizations.
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced the availability of $25 million to fund grants to approximately six organizations to provide education and employment training to young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 who left high school before graduation, or are currently or have been involved previously with the juvenile or adult criminal justice system.

Authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the awards will provide up to $4,500,000 each to eligible intermediary organizations (defined as organizations that have sub-grantees, affiliates, or local offices that serve at least three communities across at least two states) to serve young adults. Award recipients must partner actively with community colleges to deliver education and training opportunities and create pathways that lead to better economic outcomes for justice-involved young adults.

Collaboration • Empowerment • Capacity-building

RAISE The Standard enewsletter identifies and shares resources that the Rehabilitation Services Administration Parent Training and Information Centers (RSA-PTI) can use and share with families.
Executive Editor:
Josie Badger
Visit our Website:
RAISE, the National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-Advocacy and Employment is a user-centered technical assistance center that understands the needs and assets of the RSA-PTIs, coordinates efforts with the Technical Assistance provided by PTI centers and involves RSA-PTIs as key advisors and partners in all product and service development and delivery.
US Department of Education official seal
RAISE is funded by the US Department of Education to provide technical assistance to, and coordination of, the 7 PTI centers (RSA-PTIs). It represents collaboration between the nation's two Parent Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) and the seven Regional PTIs.