How well are international students really holding up?

How well are international students really holding up?

The Federal Government has announced $200,000 worth of funding towards a study that will examine how to improve the mental health of Australia’s international students.

The funding will be provided to mental health advocacy organisation Orygen, which will review the mental health support and services available to international students across the nation.

The study will also consider the challenges and best-practice examples in reaching out to international students in need of support.

Orygen executive director Professor Pat McGorry said the research will build on their previous knowledge and even “complement the work currently being undertaken by Orygen to develop a National University Mental Health Framework”.

Upon its completion, Orygen’s research seeks to improve the education sector’s response to international students’ mental health as well as safety issues.

Last year, Orygen launched a 12-month course to help upskill teachers in detecting, preventing and managing self-harm and suicide-related behaviours among the youth. Meanwhile universities are researching youth mental health, including a focus on at-risk and Indigenous students.

The funding of the new research is part of the Federal Government’s attempts to secure Australia’s international student market, which is currently being threatened by the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak and bushfire emergency.

Australia, which has been enjoying an increase in international student enrolments in previous years, took in 693,750 international students in 2018. These students generated as much as $37.6bn to the economy and supported 240,000 jobs. The bulk of these international students come from Asia – mainly China and India.

A lingering issue

In recent years, international students in Australia have been voicing their concern about a perceived lack of support and a declining sense of belongingness.

Further, a 2019 report from Bupa and QS Enrolment Solutions found that international students are more likely to have very low life satisfaction and potential depression than Australian adults.

Bupa Australia national manager of research and analytics and study author Dr Adrian Tomyn points to the pressure placed on these students to succeed amid the absence of support as a factor behind ill mental health among international students.

Efforts done as of last year to keep the international student market stable were to tighten regulations on universities and education agents.

But Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan says they have to ensure that international students are “supported to succeed in their studies and that includes support to maintain their mental health”.

“This research project is an opportunity to work together for the good of our sector and for the good of students to ensure international students access mental health support when they need it,” Minister Tehan said.