- Janine Mhlongo
Chinese Students and Mental Health: Supporting Your International Population on Campus
With the exam season approaching, stress is especially prevalent among college students. Throughout the Covid pandemic, Chinese students have faced additional pressure in and around campus due to the increase in hate crimes against the Asian community globally. This flare-up requires urgent attention from schools looking to reassure and support their students through the other crisis on campus.
Mental Health Matters | Unsplash
Understanding Mental Health in China
In order to provide adequate help to students, schools need to understand the social context their students come from. Which pointers stand out as significant?
Although there has been a lot of progress throughout Chinese social sciences in understanding mental health, there remains a stigma attached to people who seek mental health services. This stigma is shrouded by societal norms and values such as individuals’ ability to contribute to their community, compounded by the related desire to ‘save face.' Students often grow up in environments where these values are upheld, albeit covertly. In countries like the US, Canada and Australia, Chinese students make up the bulk of international students and yet they now face both internal and external pressure from their community as well as from their study destinations.
A limited amount of data is available on mental health in China. This is due to this field of study being relatively new in China when compared to those conducted in the west. Another factor is the unpopularity of the topic on Chinese social media. This increases scepticism about treatment and perpetuates the stigma around mental health.
Here’s How Schools Can Provide Support
With relatively low percentages of Chinese students seeking out mental health support on campus, what can schools do to encourage their students?
International students building friendships and finding community | Unsplash
Connect students to groups
Studying abroad comes with the stress of being away from your loved ones and family, with some destinations still in lockdown limbo, it affects students’ ability to feel connected. Helping students stay in the community destigmatizes this issue by providing solidarity. Through social media and online groups, students who wish to stay anonymous have the option to find help. Services such as Student Space in the UK help students connect with helpful resources.
Providing information on mental health needs to be a consistent feature of campus life. Once again the influence of social media should not be underestimated as a means of spreading information through infographics and apps that can connect students to helpful services. Student-led teams can facilitate the distribution of information on how to get help on and off campus.
Increase their capacity for on and off-campus counselling support.
Drawing from different fields of the counselling services spectrum will afford schools the ability to help students find support for their specific needs. Employing staff from the Asian community ensures that representation enables help to be shared within a community and not always come from the outside.
Chinese students are uniquely positioned in the conversation on mental health in the post-pandemic world. Their recruitment requires tailored support. As the rate of Asian hate incidents related to the pandemic may take time to subside, rebuilding trust among international students will become a major determining factor in whether or not admissions will return to normal numbers in the near future.
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