International students are more likely to need behavioral health support. So why are they less likely to seek it out when compared to their domestic counterparts?
College students experience many stressors – exams, homework, internships, work-study jobs, social life, family issues, and finances. For international students, there are additional layers, like language barriers, perceived discrimination, culture shock, and distance from friends and family, which can be challenging to their mental health.
There are more than 1,000,000 international students (nearly six percent of the student body) across the country, and it’s sometimes difficult for them to access the resources they need, which only further impacts their mental wellness.1
Why international students avoid addressing behavioral health
Research highlights that international students may be more hesitant than domestic students to seek behavioral health support for a variety of reasons.2 The most common reasons include:
- The stigma associated with mental illness
- Belief that seeking treatment may negatively impact their transcript or lead to visa revocation
- Lack of awareness of existing resources
- Language proficiency to effectively communicate problems
- Low availability of campus resources
How colleges can help
As this issue is becoming more widespread, colleges are wondering in what ways their leaders can support international students’ mental health on campus. Here are five ways colleges can consider supporting international college students.
1. Provide on-campus psychological support
Providing students access to professional psychological support on campus helps improve the likelihood of seeking treatment. Not only can a professional psychologist provide needed services to students, but they also serve as a contact point for all concerned community members dealing with distressed students. Further, they can serve as a liaison with external providers, help with referrals, and support the leadership by evaluating needs and identifying demands. For schools that offer professional support, they should use multiple channels (school website, on campus signage, app notifications, social media, etc.) and regular promotion so students are well aware.
2. Create a network of off-campus behavioral health support
Unfortunately, on-campus staffing and support may not be enough to support the student base. By working with local providers and counseling centers, schools can have care pathways for students readily available. In working with local providers, schools should advise them of nuances in their student population, including countries of origin, so they can find ways to assist with language barriers, if needed. Schools will also want to work with their students’ healthcare provider to ensure these local providers can be covered at in-network rates.
3. Empower your faculty and staff
Faculty and staff are usually the first to notice if a student is in distress, so consider them your first responders. According to a recent survey on the role of faculty in student mental health, almost 80 percent of faculty surveyed have had a one-on-one phone, video, or email conversations with students in the past 12 months regarding student mental health and wellness. Unfortunately, they’re not fully confident in their response or direction. In fact, 73 percent would welcome additional professional development on the topic of student mental health.3
When faculty and staff have the training and guidance they need to effectively help a student in distress, it can be a game-changer for the students. Companies like Kognito offers a wide variety of behavioral health training support for college and university staff.
4. Foster student initiatives and build on peer support
Collaborate with student leaders on campus to explore ways to create peer-support initiatives and awareness campaigns. Mental health is an emotionally engaging topic among students, and leaders will likely be eager to participate in such efforts. Peer support from the student community can be one of the best ways for students to seek out help. Organizations like Active Minds can help with campus organization, promotion and educational materials.
5. Implement telehealth services
The stigma sometimes associated with mental health patients keeps students from seeking the help they need. By providing telehealth service options, students can get the help they need, while minimizing the outward visibility among peers.
Providing behavioral health solutions
As campus administrators work to mobilize additional mental health resources, they can greatly reduce their efforts by offering Wellfleet Student for their domestic and international students health needs, including mental health.
Our Complete Behavioral Health solution provides a full breadth of options to ensure students and staff don’t go it alone. Services include:
- School counseling coordination
- National behavioral health provider network with nearly 100,000 psychiatrists!
- Virtual behavioral network access to more than 43,000 providers
- $0 copays for several commonly prescribed generic anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, and schizophrenia medications
- 24/7 Urgent behavioral health care hotline
- In-network recruitment for preferred local providers
- Student behavioral health case management
Learn more about the Complete Behavioral Health Solution from Wellfleet and how it can help improve your behavioral health services, while improving health outcomes for your international students.
1 Banasik, B. (2021, July 23). Supporting the Health and Well-Being of International Students. Retrieved on April 12, 2022, from https://timely.md/blog/international-students-mental-health/.
2 Dombou, C., Omonaiye, O., Fraser, S., et al. (2022, February 06). Barriers and facilitators associated with the use of mental health services among immigrant students in high-income countries: a scoping review protocol. Retrieved on April 12, 2022, from https://systematicreviewsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13643-022-01896-6.
3 Mary Christie Institute. (2021, April). The role of faculty in mental health. Retrieved on April 12, 2022, from https://marychristieinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/The-Role-of-Faculty-in-Student-Mental-Health.pdf.