Addressing the mental health needs of international students
International educators are turning their attention to the mental health needs of international and exchange students with the aim of building a discussion around the many challenges these students face, and creating a support framework to help them.
“There is an adjustment period for students, and sometimes, for international students, it can go from adjusting, to bad, to worse, fairly quickly,” says researcher Jenna Hubbert, an international education intern at the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC). “It is ideal if we can intervene at the adjustment stage and not wait until their issues become more serious.”
The hurdles international students encounter – from finding a social circle and overcoming language barriers, to dealing with identity issues, emotional anxieties and academic pressures – vary from student to student and differ depending on how long the student spends abroad.
As part of an independent study, Ms Hubbert interviewed a dozen Queen’s international students to learn about the challenges they encounter on campus. Her results show that mental health issues develop at different points, and at varying degrees of seriousness, for exchange students, who are only here for a few months, and for students who spend several years here for an undergraduate or graduate degree. This makes it more complicated for educators who need to tailor their support programs for each group.
Ms Hubbert will present her findings and conclusions at the Ontario Association of International Educators conference co-hosted by Queen’s and St. Lawrence College this week, leading a session about supporting international students’ mental health and personal well-being.
She will outline the hurdles international students face that can lead to mental health problems, and suggest possible programming and support steps international educators can take to address them. The session provides an opportunity for Ontario educators to connect and share their intercultural experiences and best practices.