Providing Learning Support for Students with Mental Health Difficulties Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities

Preparation and Communication

Ensure individual students can communicate with you

If a student in the group has a recognised or diagnosed mental health problem — whether it is simply vertigo or a chronic depressive illness that is being treated by medication — it may help if you knew in advance. However, students may be anxious about revealing their difficulties, particularly in a group situation, so it is important that you:

Students may not only to come to see you about their own difficulties. Students may be anxious about the health of their friends and they may also be anxious about living in close proximity with students whose behaviour is unpredictable or alarming. The section on Supporting the Student Group provides further information and guidance.

How others might help

In some universities and colleges students have a personal tutor (as at the Open University) which means there is one member of staff who may have knowledge and understanding of a particular student problem. Or the student concerned may have completed a course with one of your colleagues. The student may be seeing a counsellor or chaplain.

How can this third person be involved in preparation for the fieldwork experience?

Obviously there are confidentiality issues, and it simply is not appropriate to discuss the student in their absence, so the key element is agreement with the student about involvement of the third person — not a private conversation between two tutors.

Where the mental health issue is hidden

All students intending to go on the fieldwork could be advised that, if they are seeing someone on a regular basis, they should let their counsellor, GP or personal tutor know about the fieldwork arrangements and discuss it with them.

This opens up the possibility that the third person, with permission from the student, can then contact the fieldwork tutor to offer advice.

Where the mental health issue is known to you

If the student is already identified to you, the fieldwork tutor, then you may initiate a three-way meeting of the student, their personal tutor or counsellor, and yourself to agree together appropriate action.

Page updated 14 December 2001

GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock