We know that mental health issues among international students and domestic students are on the rise, with an extremely concerning 1 in 3 students reporting that they have considered suicide or self-harm within the last 12 months (headspace, 2016). However, “…unlike domestic students, international students lack the social networks and support systems that most domestic students experience” (Government of South Australia, 2013)
Research shows, that on average, international students actually arrive with better mental healththan the average Australian, however after arriving students develop significantly lower states of mental wellbeing. Numerous studies show the major reason for that is because international students lack social support networks, cultural understanding and are less aware about mental health services than domestic students. Our programs look at tackling ALL of these major causes in one hit!
Using Nature to Improve Mental Health among International Students
There is no more debate of the benefits of nature on promoting positive mental health. Particularly for students, research has shown that exposure to parks and green spaces improves adolescents ability to focus and helps relieve anxiety and study specific pressure. We’ve done the research, and headspace (Australia’s national leader of youth mental health) has also done the research – believe us, it works!
For international students, our wellbeing program is perfect because it teaches students how to use nature in Australia. Many international students arrive in Australia having never been camping in their life, having never seen a clear sky filled with stars and sat peacefully next to a campfire with only the sound of campfire crackles around them. So, not only can our program teach students about nature, but it also introduces them to a classic Australian pastime and contemporary Australian culture. Additionally, it allows them to develop important friendships and support networks which they may have left behind in their home country – this is a vital step to securing positive mental health among international students.
Our program directly supports the Australian Government’s 5 Ways to Wellbeing in Nature campaign and is model around the PEMRA+ positive mental health framework.
Our program can be in a full single day, or multi-day camping format. We tend to encourage camping because it highlights Australian culture, teaches international students how to use Australian nature (go camping and hiking etc) while also allowing them to develop even deeper and long lasting connection with their peers – compared to only a single day experience. We start off the morning with an introduction session at a headspace local wellbeing centre. Student’s are given resources, information and the whole morning is usually quite fun and an informal way for the group to bond at the start.
The single day or multi-day itinerary can be tailored to your group, and we find many international student groups prefer to focus on Australian culture and have a more ‘soft’ introduction to positive mental health concepts, because this topic can be such a taboo topic for many international students’ cultures.
We include: bus transport, all professionally made meals, itinerary management, risk assessment documentation, pre-made information to help you apply for your excursion, contingency plans, all staffing, camping accommodation, suggestions for post-program sessions and everything!
Teachers and Principals: You are in the perfect position to take positive action today, to address the mental health issues in your international student community. Knowing that international students are in the high risk and highly vulnerable category when it comes to mental health, you likely know that you need to act – if indeed your school does not address this issue adequately. This doesn’t mean you must use our program (because frankly it may not even be right for your group), but it does mean you need to take a closer look at what programs your school is implementing to address mental health among international students.
By investing in a mental health program for international students (and perhaps including domestic students too), you’re building a culture around positive mental wellbeing. Ultimately, this leads to students performing better in a less stressed learning environment, happier parents and homestay guardians and you could literally save the life of a young person who decides to reach out for help after taking the program.
Parents and Homestay Guardians: You have a role to play too! If you notice your child is struggling with school, loneliness, excessive gaming and escapism, then you should definitely raise this with your school. See if they have adequate programs in place that proactively teach international students about positive mental health. If they don’t, tell them to get in with contact us today. If your child is experiencing mental wellbeing challenges, it’s very likely that others in their school are as well! Rise up and take action – you could save a young person’s life today!
We’ve, collaborated with many of the above organisations to help promote positive mental health among international students. We look forward to your call or email, to help your international student community benefit from a strong wellbeing program.