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

Case Studies and Discussion Scenarios

Case study 5

Context

Residential, Youth Hostel, UK.

Mental health difficulty

Head injuries from an accident prior to the field course. The mental effect, apart from lack of co-ordination, was to become somewhat 'fearless' and we had to watch carefully as the student had little perception of personal danger. Illustrated by rather irrational behaviour on water — had to be supported by fellow students.

Known by tutor at the time?

Staff did know the circumstances but not the precise behavioural outcomes. We had assumed we had it under control by making it clear that the student was not to go out on the water at all. We thought the social coherence within the student group would have been sufficient to manage the situation safely.

Brief outline of responses made at the time

We thought we knew the students well; they themselves were very watchful and the social benefits of joining the trip appeared to outweigh the medical difficulties. In fact we were shocked to find a dangerous situation developing.

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?

The near-crisis highlights the need for continued vigilance and watchfulness when erratic behaviours are a possibility. Perhaps some form of 'buddy' system should have been adopted as a one-to-one. I suppose the moral of the story is to say that we 'thought we knew' what were the likely outcomes and had legislated for these but still potentially dangerous situations can arise and a second line of protection has to be put in place.

Page updated 14 December 2001

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