ONE in four international students across the UK and Ireland is suffering from mental health issues following the Covid crisis; a recent survey by Friends International has found.
Compiled from questionnaires completed from over 30 international student local centres across the country ranging from Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Stirling in Scotland to Durham, Norwich and Southampton in England, and Belfast in Northern Ireland, the survey sought to quantify the impact of the pandemic on the wellbeing of international students.
The results showed that while many international students responded positively to the crisis and remained in their universities to complete their courses, many paid a heavy price. For example, 97% of the local support centres that Friends International runs across the country that took part in the survey reported an increase in mental health problems, stating that wellbeing was now ‘worse’ than since the start of the pandemic, and at Birmingham, Oxford and Nottingham, ‘significantly worse’.
The survey highlighted anxiety, depression and eating disorders as key areas where international students are struggling. Separated from friends and family and deprived of the social and hospitality events that Friends International routinely organise, international students were especially vulnerable to dips in their mental health and wellbeing.
Joylynn, a second-year international student from Malaysia, highlighted the changes she faced on her return for the new term. She said:
“During my first year, I found myself in university on most weekdays, and the importance of physical attendance was routinely highlighted. Now, it is actually a requirement to not show up on campus for lectures and seminars. I find that being stuck indoors, alongside an increase in screen time, becomes stressful.”
Mike Hill, Centre Leader at Friends International Birmingham, said:
“We are seeing significant numbers of international students who won’t leave their accommodation due to anxiety, depression or concerns about self-image. Ordinarily, we meet students for Bible study, but now these meetings are often doubling up as mental health support sessions.”
To address the surge in mental health issues brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Friends International is launching ‘Wellbeing’, a series of videos specifically aimed at international students and addressing the issues from their perspective. The six-part series explores the key elements of wellbeing, including connecting with others, an active lifestyle, continuous learning and personal generosity. The Wellbeing series is free and is available from the Friends International student app.