Australia’s education sector has shown leadership, innovation and good practice in supporting the mental health and safety of international students, according to a new report.
Minister for Education Dan Tehan said there is strong ongoing commitment from all governments, the sector and the broader community to support the welfare of international students.
“International students make a significant contribution to Australia and we have responsibility to ensure they are supported to succeed, including mental health support,” Mr Tehan said.
“We are committed to improving the experience of international students who choose to study in Australia, and this report provides a solid basis for the future.”
The report identifies opportunities to build on the mental health support already being offered by the education sector, including:
• providing simple, accessible information on supports and services
• promoting activities that help build social connection, and
• addressing other stressors that may impact on international students’ mental health and safety, including separation from family and friends, and employment.
Mr Tehan said challenges identified in the report include social isolation, a lack of awareness of the support and services available, and stigma associated with seeking help.
It also noted work by universities to provide more mental health and safety literature for students, better promote and facilitate access to support on campus, and to design and deliver more culturally appropriate responses to mental health challenges.
The report is timely with the emergence of COVID-19 and the additional stress and anxiety this may be causing international students. In response to the pandemic, the Australian Government has provided $200 million to charities to support vulnerable members of the community, including $7 million for the Red Cross for relief and casework support to people on temporary visas, including international students.
The report, funded by the Australian Government, was produced by mental health specialists Orygen, drawing on preliminary research by the Council of International Students Australia in partnership with headspace.