Mental Health Guidance for International Students in the UK

Mental Health Guidance for International Students in the UK

Student Mental Health

Moving to the UK to study, even for just a short while, is a big adventure! It’s exciting, but for many it’s the furthest they’ve ever travelled. The pressure of having to study whilst living in a new city presents challenges that you won’t find on a normal holiday.

It’s only natural that being a long way from home can feel daunting. It is common that international students may experience a degree of stress during their tenure in the UK. For those living in a homestay with HFS London, there’s lots of support available – and we’re always here to help.

What are the Main Causes of Stress for International Students?

Everyone reacts differently to different situations, but feeling low during a prolonged stay abroad is normal. International students have a lot on, so there’s many things that can cause stress and other mental health issues for them. Anxiety, loneliness and stress can be caused by a few factors:

  • The language barrier
  • Cultural differences and understanding
  • Financial concerns
  • Exam and study pressure

You’re not alone though with 85% of Brits experiencing regular stress in 2018. As an international student, balancing life in a new country with studying can be difficult (but not impossible!). If any of the above are making you feel out of sorts, then there’s a lot you can do.

A recent study by Campus Living Villages found that 36% of international students studying in the UK suffer from mental health concerns that either begin or continue through their study trips. However, 39% of UK-domiciled students report the same. International students are shown to be more likely to know where to seek help when they need it, which is positive. You should feel the same after reading this guide!

How is Mental Health looked after in the UK?

Great Britain’s healthcare, known as the NHS (National Health Service) is universal and free at point-of-entry for residents. This includes mental health and well-being.

The UK has a broadly positive attitude toward mental health and there is lots of support amongst the population for improved service availability. The NHS is very much seen as a national treasure. As a result, any governmental decision involving change is faced with criticism and opposition. Should citizens wish to pay, they can access private healthcare services.

Not all cultures have such open attitudes toward mental health. Although it may come as a bit of a shock to students from elsewhere, you should try to embrace it! There’s a lot to be gained from talking and remaining open and honest.

What can you do as an international student?

Most international students won’t have free access to mental health support on the NHS, but there are private healthcare packages and insurance options available. However, before you hit the point where you feel you need treatment for mental health issues, there are a few things you can consider:

1. Getting Support from Universities and Colleges

Many Universities have implemented support frameworks for their students (both domestic and international) and it is commonplace for study centres to have peer-led programs that are culturally sensitive. You may find, however, that these are only available in English – so enquire with your course leader or peer support worker to get more information.

If you are feeling low or anxious during your study stay, the first step in seeking help is to speak to your main contact at university or college. If your worries are centered particularly around your workload, professional placements or finances, your study centre may be able to help you to prioritise and juggle your responsibilities to help ease the pressure.

2. Is there anything I can do to help myself with mental health issues? 

Having an awareness of your own well-being is important so if you realise that you’re not feeling your usual self, be kind to yourself. Indulge in your favourite hobby, take some time for yourself and work out practical resolutions to tangible issues you face. Can you re-work your revision schedule? Would taking some additional English classes help solve any language barriers? Are you able to take your books outside for a sunny study session al fresco to boost your Vitamin D and get some fresh air? Even if you’re just able to change one thing about your schedule or take 10 minutes to gather your thoughts, the benefits could be vast. Perhaps you could consider organising your time with an app?

3. Can HFS London Help with International Student’s Mental Health Concerns?

HFS London are not qualified mental health professionals and so can’t offer medical advice. However, our team can help point you in the right direction for help and you should let us know at the first possible opportunity if you’re struggling. We can also speak to your host family if you’d like us to and ensure they understand how you’re feeling, too.

HFS London will do everything possible to help you feel happy and secure during your homestay. Even if you’re just feeling a little low and don’t yet have concerns for your broader mental health, don’t wait – speak to someone as early as possible to ensure you can be best looked after and help look after yourself!