Study abroad students and international students must be placed in a priority position when it comes to addressing student mental health.

5 ways to prioritize mental health for international and study abroad students

Having the right people, technology, and counseling services in place will set an institution’s global engagement department apart from others

America’s higher education system is facing a crisis: students’ mental health. A survey by TimelyMD found that 88 percent of college students are experiencing declining mental health, with 75 percent report being more stressed than they were in 2021, even as pandemic restrictions have relaxed.

While it’s clear that the pandemic and global unrest are still sources of the deterioration of a college student’s mental health, the reality is that the changes brought on by the past two years didn’t create the mental health epidemic, but they certainly exacerbated it.

As colleges and universities take inventory of their mental health resources, they cannot overlook the special attention required by their global learners–both incoming international students and students studying abroad. Ongoing economic and political uncertainty combined with xenophobia, discrimination, cultural discrepancies, and the underlying fear of another global health crisis create the perfect storm for a traveling student’s mentality.

Being in tune with the unique needs of learners leaving their families to study in another country is the first step in ensuring their well-being and mental safety.

Here are five tips for prioritizing the mental health of incoming and outgoing students on college campuses.

Don’t Wait for the Student to Seek Help

International students and students traveling abroad are among higher education’s most vulnerable populations. Often, fear of the unknown and limited knowledge of or access to mental health resources can stymie their ability to initiate the request for help. In addition, there’s a global stigma around mental health, so it’s essential to be aware of some cultural hesitations students have about asking for help, especially when away from their home country.

One way to support these students is to provide clear details on what campus counseling services are available and how they can access them. Utilizing a solution to automate communication enables global education offices to connect with students on an individual, more personalized level and effectively get counseling details to students via email, text messaging and social media.

In addition, having the support of another student or advisor from a similar cultural background can help reduce the stigma and encourage them to seek help so they feel more comfortable seeking counseling.

Help Them Develop Valuable Connections

Based on a recent survey of global education leaders, when asked about the ways they’re trying to recruit and retain international students, more than half (51 percent) said that connecting interested students with similar students already attending (based on country of origin and program studies) is one of the top three ways. It’s also important to connect students with counselors who speak different languages and understand the student’s culture. Nothing will turn a student away from counseling faster than trying to navigate language and cultural barriers.

eSchool Media Contributors

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