The opportunity to engage with learning throughout life is a necessity in our rapidly changing world. Lifelong learning both increases our skills and knowledge and helps us deal with the demands of everyday life. Providing opportunities for students with all kinds of disabilities to continue their studies beyond school is central to Skill's mission; that is why I am delighted to introduce this book. It gives much needed insight into the complexities of providing support to individuals and to planning and delivering education that is flexible and inclusive for learners who have experienced mental health problems. It deals with subjects we all find uncomfortable at times, and debunks many commonly held misconceptions about mental ill health.
It is becoming better recognised that students with hidden disabilities may require support that is less easy to quantify than physical adaptations to meet the needs of students with physical and sensory impairments. Institutions need to concentrate on raising awareness, across both teaching and non-teaching departments, to change the environment to one within which students can bring forward their problems and express their needs. The work undertaken by Nicky Stanley and Jill Manthorpe and other Higher Education Funding Council for England funded projects has created greater awareness of the involvement of educational professionals in student well-being and improved recognition of the existence of discrimination. In the case of students with mental health problems this discrimination has its roots in the portrayal of mental illness as scary, out of control and ultimately violent. Many studies have shown that the greatest danger posed by someone with a mental health problem is to themselves. (The much-needed chapters on student suicide will be helpful to all those who have to deal with this most distressing human act.)