Statistics suggest that 1 in 4 students suffer from mental health problems.1
Factors that might affect a student’s mental health are numerous but include pressure to succeed, loneliness, stress, substance misuse, and unhealthy lifestyle – late nights, poor diet.
International students can be especially vulnerable. On top of the usual stresses of life, they also face culture shock, a different style of education, and trying to relate and express themselves in a second (or third!) language. Every day tasks are just that bit more difficult and stressful especially when they have only recently arrived in the UK.
For international students, when things get tough, they are a long way from family and their usual support structures. The pressure to succeed is magnified when you are the only child, or when sacrifices have been made by the family so you can study overseas. For some, failure is not seen as an option.
In some cultures, mental illness is taboo, and so students either don’t recognise the warning signs or, if they do, choose to ignore them because they think asking for help will bring shame. One overseas student in the UK refused to seek help for mental health problems because they were convinced that their illness would be recorded and reported to their parents and sponsor.
How are Friends International sensitive to these needs
In Friends International we are committed to caring for the whole person and giving generous respect to all cultures.
One of the keys ways to maintain a good mental wellbeing is to have genuine connection with the people around you. We are aware of this, and it is one of the reasons that hospitality and helping to build community and a place to belong is central to what we do. Whether it is an English conversation group, International Café, or Christian study group we seek to provide safe places where relationship blossoms and where issues can be explored without judgement.
We can be there to help students before they hit a crisis
We want to encourage all international student workers to be aware and sensitive of student mental health needs.
We may notice that a student is ‘not quite themselves’, or maybe hasn’t been around for a few weeks, and that we should attempt to get in touch. Sometimes it’s as simple as sitting down over a coffee or a meal and just listening and showing that they are not alone. It’s walking the road with them, sharing joy and sorrow, helping them navigate the stressful times.
It is also important that, when needed, we help them access professional help and journey with them on their road to wellbeing.
UKCISA – Top tips for International students
Student Minds – www.studentminds.org.uk
Mind – www.mind.org.uk
Samaritans – www.samaritans.org
Photo by sean Kong on Unsplash