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

Case Studies and Discussion Scenarios

Case study 2

Comment on declarations

In my time taking students on field courses/day visits we have certainly had some students with severe mental problems however, they usually have not declared them in advance, and sometimes the whole field course has been disrupted by attempting to cope with/care for the resulting problems. The first year field course in the autumn term is often the first sign of trouble. In general we find that whilst students will declare physical disabilities fairly readily, they are much slower to declare others even though we have a confidential health form which they all have to fill in prior to each field course.

Context

Residential, in youth hostel in UK, conditions quite good as it was a specialist YHA hostel, shared rooms.

Mental health difficulty

Student asked to be taken to the doctor with a septic burn with a plausible explanation. (On reflection this may have been self-harm.) On return from the surgery the student got very drunk In the end drunkenness and suicide attempts became frequent and it was clear that this was part of a more serious mental health problem, which finally (after much involvement of friends, tutors and counsellors after the fieldwork incident) led to hospital admission.

Known by tutor at the time?

No indication at all that the student had major problems, including eating disorder.

Brief outline of responses made at the time

Everybody, staff and student friends, leant over backwards to try and help. The student therefore was very well supported. If we had known beforehand that there was a problem, we would still have taken them, so we would probably have had much the same problem.

On reflection, could the situation have been managed differently, and how could fieldwork planning, or communication with the student(s) or professionals before (or during) the events assisted?

We try to communicate very well with all students prior to field courses, we do have a health form for them all to fill in. They get very good written guidelines on all aspects of field work. In fact many aspects of our field guides could be seen as an example of good practice. Food, behaviour and drunkenness is something that we spend some time on. This is useful to all those who want to communicate with us which means that we can have special programmes for some, special diets etc. However, those who do not want to admit to a problem are always a problem.

Page updated 14 December 2001

GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock