The mental health needs of international students have emerged as a significant issue for education providers in recent years. International education literature shows that foreign students experience unique acculturative stressors that leads to relatively high levels of anxiety and depression. See Annotated Bibliography below It follows then that tailored mental health support for at-risk international students in essential, not only protect these students but also New Zealand’s reputation as a study destination.
ISANA NZ advocates for the sufficient funding of tailored mental health services and works actively with the Minister of Education’s office, the Ministry of Education International Division and Education New Zealand. It also hosts workshops that provide tailored mental health strategies. ISANA NZ has had the privilege to draw on the expertise of Patrick Au, Asian Mental Health Services, (Auckland DHB) See Tailored mental health and Dr Jubilee Rajiah, University of Otago Student Health, See Professional boundaries who have delivered well received mental health workshops in recent years. The workshop content examines the difference between mental health and mental illness and identifies intercultural variables involved in tailored mental health support.
ISANA NZ also works with and recommends other agencies’ work which address students’ mental health issues. For example, we contributed to the development of Education New Zealand’s NauMai website and recommend English Australia’s Guide to best practice in international student health as a well-informed and detailed approach to the complex issue of international student wellbeing.
To date the export education sector has relied largely on online surveys to investigate the international student experience. While these are invaluable for providing a snapshot of students’ perceptions of their experiences, the data is an inch deep and a mile wide for some pastoral issues. There has been limited research, for instance, investigating the trajectories of the international student’s transition experience and the predictors of failure or risk. There are also few studies that investigate in-depth the experiences of frontline staff who interact daily with the students.
Because of these gaps in knowledge, ISANA NZ led the first practice-and-research symposium on the international student experience hosted by the Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Education and sponsored by Education New Zealand. The Association also supports sector-relevant research work undertaken by individual academics and centres such as the Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research which offers a Building Cultural Competency programme.
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