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Joined-up approach to supporting a student's mental health abroad


An American student had taken a university sanctioned trip to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. After experimenting with drugs, the student experienced a psychotic incident. She became paranoid and felt unsafe. Healix, through our expertise and reach of our medical and security teams, was able to help the student to not only seek medical attention, but also to ensure that she felt safe again and ultimately return to her home country.

The challenge

Ensure the safety of the student in a foreign country while simultaneously respecting her autonomy.

The student placed the initial call to the Healix security team more than two weeks after she was scheduled to have arrived home in the US. She was still in Kuala Lumpur and stated she was being threatened, claiming to have had an altercation with a criminal organisation and feared for her life.

The team soon became aware that the student had been experimenting with drugs. Additionally, she had a complicated mental health history that included self-harm and attempted suicide.

In close collaboration with the Healix medical team and taking all factors into consideration, it was determined that the student was exhibiting signs of a psychotic episode.

Reluctant to seek medical attention, her paranoid state and use of aggressive language during calls further complicated the situation. 

Our approach

Our teams remained in constant contact, maintaining compassionate communication while making appropriate arrangements.

Due to the nature of the case, we recommended immediate hospitalisation to prevent the student from remaining unsupervised due to the risk she posed to herself. There was also the need to determine what arrangements would be needed to allow her to travel safely back to the United States. 

As this had all taken place on a university-sponsored trip, it was critical to ensure informed decisions were made in alignment with the university’s travel risk management programme, in close collaboration with the university's risk managers. The plan was designed to ensure the student’s family were also involved.

The student did go to the hospital, only to discharge herself into a family member’s care. Despite an array of complications, we continued to make sure every effort was made to protect her safety and wellbeing.


With support, the student went on to receive medical care, and was eventually assessed as well enough to travel safely home.

The student maintained that she would only return to the hospital following the initial discharge if her partner was with her. As a result, the Healix team arranged for her partner to fly from the US to Malaysia. Upon arrival of her partner, the student returned to the hospital and was eventually assessed as well enough to travel.

This case underscores the intricate nature of balancing duty of care, respecting individual autonomy and navigating mental health challenges in a foreign setting. It also highlights the importance of having a travel risk management provider that has medical and security teams in-house, collaborating with each other in real time. 

This case could not have been managed effectively as just a medical case, nor could it have been handled solely as a security incident. Healix was able to help the student most effectively because we had both teams working hand-in-hand.

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