Pandemic hits the mental health of international students


It’s been over a year since Hailey Do, a third-year student at the University of Technology Sydney, left her hometown. Feeling trapped in an 80-square-meter flat in Strathfield, Sydney’s bustling suburbs, she awaits her quiet hometown of Dalat.

Vietnam closed its border on March 22, 2020. On the same day, Vietnam exceeded 100 cases of coronavirus infection for the first time. Just a day ago, Australia reported 1081 confirmed cases and began imposing social distance rules.

Initially hoping to return home, Do stayed in Australia to serve as the newly elected president of the Vietnam Dynamic Student (VDS NSW) in New South Wales.

But surviving in one of the most expensive cities in the world has never been easier for a 20-year-old student who lost his only job in a fast food chain because of COVID-19. I couldn’t make any money and went home and got the money that was sent. My family was also having a hard time financially.

“I can’t see my family and I miss my house. It was really hard,” he said.

“I was very tired and crying every day,” she said, saying she wanted to leave everything behind and return to Vietnam.

Epoch Times Photo
Hayley Doo on the beach in Australia on October 31, 2019. (Image by Hayley Doo)

Around 400,000 international students Choose to stay in Australia for the duration of COVID-19. Do wasn’t the only one under pressure.

Study published by Interdisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute Titled Psychological well-being and academic experience of Australian college students during COVID-19 (MDPI), international students were a “very high-risk group” of mental health problems.

A survey of 787 international students from an Australian university showed that nearly two-thirds of respondents had low or very low happiness during a pandemic.

The situation is not unique to Australia.

the study According to the Psychiatry Frontier, 85% of the 124 international students surveyed in the United Kingdom or the United States have moderate to high levels of sensory stress, and 12% have moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression. I had it.

Lonely experience

Isabella Choi, a clinical psychologist who runs Australia’s first online mental health project for Chinese students in a pandemic, said that rising levels of anxiety and depression in international students during COVID-19 are related to social distance. I told the Epoch Times that I was doing it.

“Especially those who didn’t have the opportunity to make friends or really get to know Australia in their first year of study,” Choi said.

I agree, remembering the pain she felt while stuck in her rented apartment in the city center of Sydney.

“I felt like the wall was approaching,” she said. “I often went to the balcony and looked at the sky, hoping I was a bird and could just fly high.”

Luna Manandar, an Australian student from Nepal, had a similar problem. Manandar, an international board member at the University of Technology Sydney, said the first three months of the pandemic were difficult because he struggled to maintain himself after losing his job at a restaurant, the only source of income. Said.

“I was like being in the middle of the sea. I didn’t know what to do,” said the Nepalese girl.

Epoch Times Photo
Luna Manandar of the Zoom Conference. (Image: Nina Nguyen, The Epoch Times)

Challenge of remark

According to an MDPI survey, only about 20% of students use mental health support services, making it difficult to solve problems.

Hee-seop Choi believed that this was due to low mental health literacy and the stigma associated with talking about mental issues, especially in some Asian communities.

“Few people know what depression and anxiety are,” said Hee-seop Choi. Crazy, what’s wrong with them? “

“And often they may have those symptoms … they may notice [as] Instead of reporting that they are really depressed and really worried about something, they have headaches and sleeplessness, “she said.

She believes that linguistic and cultural barriers also prevent foreign students from seeking help.

“They may not feel very comfortable talking to someone in English about how they really feel,” Choi said.

According to her, her online interactive mental health project for Chinese students is Australia’s first project to communicate with students using Chinese, proverbs and metaphors.

Epoch Times Photo
People pass the Australian University sign in Melbourne’s Central Business District on June 10, 2020 (William West / AFP via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Do talked to a friend, pointing out that she maintained the help of positive thinking, and was more practical about how she asked for help. She also found it beneficial to have mental support, as “I realized that everything I am experiencing now is very minor.”

“In fact, I don’t think many people need detailed instructions. All they need is someone who can hear them,” says Do. To take responsibility for external factors and instead look for ways to improve next time, “she said.

Manandal said Australia’s world-class education and English-speaking environment also make it one of the best places to study in the country.

“I don’t regret coming to Australia because it was what I always wanted. [do], “She said.