For the majority of students who are experiencing mental health difficulties, the fieldwork experience will not present any particular problems. However, most of us feel some anxiety about unfamiliar situations, and some students may feel particularly concerned about a prospective field course: raised levels of anxiety are a component of many mental illnesses. As a member of staff involved in fieldwork you can, through careful planning and preparation, reduce the levels of anxiety, enhancing the experience for everyone.
You may have been to a field destination for many years, and be confident that the students will enjoy the learning experience. It is easy to forget how much information students feel they need about something which is totally unknown to them. It is also easy to assume that you have covered everything they need to know in your introductory lecture. Assume that the entire fieldwork experience is uncharted territory, and this will help you anticipate their anxieties.
Listed below are some actions that you can take to help to reduce students' anxiety levels prior to the field visit:
Staff may also be anxious about the field experience, particularly if they are aware that some students have a mental illness and they are unsure how they should respond. The sections on In the Field and Identifying and Responding to Students in Difficulty address staff concerns in more detail.
Page updated 14 December 2001
GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 117 0