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Student Mental Health - How We Can Help

Statistics suggest that 1 in 4 students suffer from mental health problems.1
Factors that might affect a student’s mental health are numerous but include pressure to succeed, loneliness, stress, substance misuse, and unhealthy lifestyle – late nights, poor diet, etc.
International students can be especially vulnerable. On top of the usual stresses of life, they also face culture shock, a different style of education, and trying to relate and express themselves in a second (or third!) language. Every day tasks are just that bit more difficult and stressful especially when they have only recently arrived in the UK.
For international students, when things get tough, they are a long way from family and their usual support structures. The pressure to succeed is magnified when you are the only child, or when sacrifices have been made by the family so you can study overseas. For some, failure is not seen as an option.
In some cultures, mental illness is taboo, and so students either don’t recognise the warning signs or, if they do, choose to ignore them because they think asking for help will bring shame. One overseas student in the UK refused to seek help for mental health problems because they were convinced that their illness would be recorded and reported to their parents and sponsor.
How are Friends International sensitive to these needs
In Friends International we are committed to caring for the whole person and giving generous respect to all cultures.
One of the key ways to maintain a good mental wellbeing is to have genuine connection with the people around you. We are aware of this, and it is one of the reasons that hospitality and helping to build community and a place to belong is central to what we do. Whether it is an English conversation group, International Café, or Christian study group we seek to provide safe places where relationship blossoms and where issues can be explored without judgement.
We can be there to help students before they hit a crisis
We want to encourage all international student workers to be aware and sensitive of student mental health needs.
We may notice that a student is ‘not quite themselves’, or maybe hasn’t been around for a few weeks, and that we should attempt to get in touch. Sometimes it’s as simple as sitting down over a coffee or a meal and just listening and showing that they are not alone. It’s walking the road with them, sharing joy and sorrow, helping them navigate the stressful times.
It is also important that, when needed, we help them access professional help and journey with them on their road to wellbeing.
Useful resources:

1 - One in four students suffer from mental health problems.

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Manchester and Edinburgh Summer Teams - Report

Manchester International Outreach (MIO)

We had a great MIO team of 25 including 5 from the USA, 1 from Japan and 1 from the Netherlands. The commissioning service at Holy Trinity Platt was very inspiring and motivating. The team gelled well and worked hard as they learnt from seminars each morning, invited students in the afternoons and ran the café each evening.
During the first week café numbers were quite low but we had about 45 guests for the BBQ and over 50 for the ‘Food, Science and Faith’ dinner and talk on the Friday. There were similar numbers for the second week including the dinner and gospel talk on the Friday.

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European Students in a Brexit World - by Sofia Demler


“Europe is very different from Britain. For instance, their windows open inwards rather than outwards, and it is almost impossible to buy Monster Munch in Bulgaria.No wonder we could not get along.”

I found this quote while strolling through a bookshop in Cambridge. There is some truth in it. Even neighbouring European countries are surprisingly different. Though we consider each other as Westerners, and even more, as young Europeans who have a sense of being a European first before anything else, we do currently face challenges. It is not only Brexit; there seems to be something changing in Europe, but it hasn’t yet been decided which direction will prevail – separation or stronger connection. For now, many Europeans are still using their chance to study or work abroad. They come to Britain, to study the language or to make use of the great educational system, with some hoping to stay for good and start a successful career1.

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TRUE Leadership 2019 - Report

Our fifth annual TRUE Leadership retreat took place in the heart of the Peak District on 7-10th June 2019. The core team were joined by 26 students and coaches from 13 nations for a programme of leadership teaching, teamwork and coaching.
Investing in international students is a great way to show that we value them. Teaching leadership also opens up opportunities for conversation with them about issues that matter.

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