Australian Universities Tailor Mental Health Services to Cultures
|26 February, 2023
According to a prominent mental health charity, successful mental health services at Australian universities must be tailored to the cultural requirements of international students since they come from multicultural environments.
Most Australian educational institutions offer mental health support for their international students, but programme engagement is frequently low, according to Orygen, a Victoria-based organisation.
The remarks follow research that was released in January by the University of Melbourne and Orygen, which asserted that foreign student suicide deaths will persist in the absence of more focused mental healthcare.
The study was conducted in response to a 2021 Victorian coroner's report that showed 47 international students had committed suicide in the state from 2010 to 2019, as The Guardian reported.
Despite the fact that there are no evidence-based suicide prevention programmes in existence anywhere in the world, Samuel McKay, a research fellow in suicide prevention at Orygen, noted that many educators and peak bodies engage in a range of activities.
"Unfortunately, this support is rarely adapted to the cultural requirements of international students, which restricts service involvement... In a similar vein, all educators have orientation programmes that typically educate students about mental health resources and other initiatives to ease their transition to Australia, but once again, these initiatives do not result in meaningful service engagement.”
According to McKay, the Victoria Coroner's findings revealed that when students did interact with services, the support pathways were frequently complicated and not easily accessible, making it challenging for the students to get the necessary support when required.
"Taken together, the evidence tells us that institutions want to address this issue, but in practice, the current approaches are haphazard, lack sufficient and ongoing funding, and don't seem to be quite working," McKay continued.
"In the end, we require easily accessible services and initiatives to meet students where they are and offer them the support they require at that precise time. These requirements are varied and frequently connected to the various mental health difficulties that foreign students experience.
According to Catriona Jackson, chief executive of Universities Australia, universities are aware of the variety of difficulties that international students may encounter when they move overseas to study, including social isolation, language barriers, financial strains, and adjusting to a new society.
"We are aware that some students who study in Australia already have mental health issues that they may find difficult to handle in a foreign environment."
"Universities offer specialised support services to assist students in overcoming these obstacles."
She stated that Universities Australia collaborates closely with organisations such as Suicide Prevention Australia to ensure that appropriate support frameworks are in place for both local and international students. She added that the organisation would continue to build on this work to ensure that students can access the best support possible.
"Any student experiencing mental health issues should contact their university's support services," Jackson continued.