In a set of interviews that took place as part of the PIE Perspectives video series, stakeholders explained that in some cases, students have had to return home at short notice without their medication and have had vital counselling services disrupted.
“It could be that they’ve left without their medication”
Stakeholders also told The PIE that varying cultural views on mental health mean it can be difficult to assess if a student is in urgent need of support.
“We’ve found ourselves [in a situation] where our international students have had to very often and very suddenly return back to their home countries,” said Douglas Little, project manager of international student mental health at the University of Nottingham.
“This has created some profound problems for them. So for example, if they are currently receiving formal treatment for mental health conditions it could be that they’ve left without their medication, it could be that they have left partway through their counselling therapy and there particular challenges for universities around their student well being,” he said.
Elizabeth Kumbhari, vice president of professional exchange programs and legal counsel at Cultural Vistas explained that mental health can be a challenge with international students because cultures view mental health concerns in different ways.
“Individuals raise their hand or ask for help, in varying levels and in varying ways, sometimes in urgency… So an organisation like ours may receive an email from a participant that says ‘I’m feeling kind of down right now and that may mean they are very depressed.
“Or we could receive an email that says I need a counsellor right now and that may just mean that they’re kind of having a bad day,” Kumbhari said.
“And so I think it is understanding the urgency sometimes in cultural contexts, and understanding how to respond accordingly.”
Many students have faced financial hardship that has led to mental health problems. Last month The PIE reported that Indian students were suffering from severe mental health issues after they were evicted by private landlords.
Executive committee member The European Students’ Union, Urša Leban, told The PIE students across Europe have lost their jobs and their financial income.
“There were a lot of changes in housing situations, a lot were forced to move back home… all of this has put a lot of pressure on students,” she said.