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Mental Health Awareness (NAFSA Region II - 2015)


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In 2015, at the NAFSA Region II conference, Jenifer Frankel (from International Student Insurance), Linda Melville (from the University of New Mexico) and Chalimar Swain (from the University of Utah) presented on the topic of "Improving Mental Health Awareness Among International Students"

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Mental Health Awareness (NAFSA Region II - 2015)

  1. 1. NAFSA Region II Conference 2015 Improving Mental Health Awareness Among International Students
  2. 2. Presenters Jennifer Frankel Linda Melville Chalimar Swain
  3. 3. Agenda Achieving Mental Health: Creating Awareness Second-level Support: Mental Illness Helping Students Seek Care/Barriers Resources/Best Practices Case Studies and Discussion
  4. 4. Achieving Mental Health: Creating Awareness
  5. 5. What is Mental Health? Mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  6. 6. Challenges for International Students Far from family and friends Values are being challenged Need to reformulate identity & personality Challenge to skills & abilities May have studied abroad to avoid problems at home
  7. 7. How Can We Assist? Make them aware of the challenges Help them to create a support system Inform them about campus and community resources Offer workshops to help cope with common stressors (culture shock, academics, etc.) Educate campus staff
  8. 8. Types of Programs that Help Buddy/Peer mentor programs Culture shock workshops University 101-type courses Social organizations/student clubs Holiday programs Friendship family programs Staff training
  9. 9. Train Advising and Office Staff Discuss common issues Teach active listening Encourage empathy Create a plan of action Remind staff to be courteous and friendly Create a welcoming environment
  10. 10. Second-Level Support: Mental Illness
  11. 11. 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 Experienced Emotional/Stress Related Problems Considered Seeking Care Actually Sought Care 44% 33% 17% (Source: Hyun, Quinn, Madon, & Lusting, 2010) International Students Are Not Seeking Care
  12. 12. Commonalities with US Students 90% of students who seek counselling improve within 6 months Issues are similar, most common include: Anxiety related to performance Fear of failure Finances Source: Data from UNM Counseling Center
  13. 13. Unfamiliarity with US systems Physical differences that set them apart (hijab) Political systems can make them feel implicated Differences from US Students
  14. 14. What is Mental Illness? Mental illness is defined as “collectively all diagnosable mental disorders” or “health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.” - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  15. 15. Mental Illness – Birds Eye View Source: National Institutes of Health, 2013 Source: World Health Organization, 2002 450 million people affected Almost 50% affected
  16. 16. Helping Students Seek Care: Eliminating Barriers
  17. 17. “Adequate orientation and administrative support for international students are key factors in successful transitions.” (Source: Hyun, Quinn, Madon, & Lusting, 2010) Yes No 39% 61% Knowledge of Campus Counseling Services
  18. 18. Worldwide Stigma Mental illness often goes undiagnosed and untreated among international students due to the negative connotations associated with the subject around the world.
  19. 19. Common Myths “Counseling is for crazy people.” “Everyone will know I saw the counselor.” “I can handle my own health problems. If not, it means I’m weak.”
  20. 20. An Advisor’s Role and Boundaries “International students who reported a more functional relationship with their advisors were less likely to report having an emotional or stress-related problem in the past year and [to report] using counseling services...”
  21. 21. Warning Signs Change in Appearance Academic Problems Social Isolation Noticeable Changes in Mood Unusual or Odd Behaviors Drug/Alcohol Abuse Threat of Harm to Themselves or Others
  22. 22. Helping Students Seek Care On-campus assistance: Mental Health Staff Hours Average Cost No counseling center? Relationships with other providers Suggestions from other departments Helplines
  23. 23. Insurance and Mental Health What is Legally Required? Nothing! Mental health insurance coverage is not required by the government for international students. Questions to Consider: 1. Do the students’ insurance plans cover mental health? 2. Does the insurance company offer language support? 3. Do students realize that claims are confidential?
  24. 24. Best Practices & Resources
  25. 25. Best Practices: Awareness & Action 1. Train advisors to spot red flags • Numerous/repeated failed courses • Difficulty sleeping/sleeping too much • Isolation • Requesting a medical RCL/LOA 2. Understand the “international” component • Cultural coping strategies/ perceptions of resources • Additional stressors or factors impacting primary issue
  26. 26. Best Practices: Awareness & Action 3. Indentify resources & protocols • CARE Team • Counseling Resources • Other Resources 4. “High Touch” assistance and follow through • Refer to another person, not another office • Demystify processes (i.e., counseling center intake) • Follow-up to see how things are going
  27. 27. Best Practices: Awareness & Action 5. Set boundaries • Refer as appropriate • Understand your capabilities and triggers • Be clear about your role 6. Interdepartmental outreach • Help others understand international students’ unique needs
  28. 28. Best Practices: CARE Team Centralized team: indentifies and provides support for escalated issues 1. Centralized response/tracking for situations of concern; including referrals to/coordination with specific resources needed 2. Coordination of support and response; ensure multiple perspectives: • Multicultural sensitivity • Social and emotional wellbeing • Academic outcomes 3. Training opportunities for ISSS staff: holistic response to advising
  29. 29. Best Practices: CARE Team, con’t. Meets weekly, discusses current student situations, formulates action plans and assigns follow-up Care Team does NOT: 1. Provide mental health treatment or assessment 2. Adjudicate conduct issues Structure 3 permanent members (Director, Associate Directors) 2 rotating members (advisors, GA’s)
  30. 30. Resources and Awareness Mental Health Awareness Video Resource: www.internationalstudentinsur health-video.php NAFSA provides the following publications: Health and Wellness for International Students Best Practices in Addressing Mental Health Issues Affecting Education Abroad Participants
  31. 31. Resources - National Hotlines National Suicide Prevention 1-800-273-TALK Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 1-800-SAMHSA-7 or 1-877-726-4727 It Gets Better Project (LGBTQ) 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386) or 1-888- 843-4564 also includes state specific resources The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE
  32. 32. Case Studies & Discussion
  33. 33. Case Study #1 During an appointment with a student to discuss her request for a reduced course load (RCL), the student tells you that she needs to drop at least one, and maybe more courses. When you ask her why, she is vague, stating that she is having trouble with the topics. You notice that last semester, she had failing grades in 3 out of 4 courses. You mention this, and ask her if anything specific is causing her difficulty. She says she’s having trouble sleeping at night and is very tired each day and can’t go to class. What follow up questions could you ask? What resources could you offer? What possible mental health issues might you be aware of?
  34. 34. Case Study #2 Julio, an exchange student from Spain, seems to be constantly in the office. Several times, he has spent up to two hours speaking with an advisor. He also attends all of your workshops and social events. He appears to be very extroverted and nice, if perhaps a little needy. About two months after the start of the semester, you notice that Julio is in the office every day, often meeting with one particular advisor or sometimes just “hanging out”. Soon after, the advisor comes to you and expresses concern about the things Julio is telling her. He seems to be having major issues with his family at home, and is very lonely and isolated. Lately she’s also noticed that Julio looks disheveled and unkempt. The advisor doesn’t really feel comfortable with the amount of time he’s spending with her, but she’s hesitant to bring anyone else in because “Julio trusts me”. What are the issues? What actions should you take?
  35. 35. Thank you! Q&A