As many of you will be aware, the Guardian Education recently featured an article entitled ‘Year-abroad students say universities don’t offer enough support’. The article discusses whether universities are providing sufficient welfare support to their students living abroad.
We shared this article on our Facebook and Twitter pages and were amazed by the overwhelming response from you all. We were so interested to hear about your experiences, both good and bad. Your passion on this topic makes it clear that the issue of support for year abroad students requires more specific attention.
This article, and your responses to it, are the inspiration behind our latest Q&A Day on TYA Answers, the theme of which will be Mental Health.
The Q&A Day will be on Tuesday 20th January 2015, so please do ask your questions on the site, ready for our experts to answer*. We are contacting charities such as Mind, Student Minds and Time to Change, as well as asking for the input of Year Abroad organisations such as the British Council, so that we can give accurate and helpful advice that will remain on the site to help present and future Year Abroaders.
The Q&A Day will address a range of topics including how to prepare for a Year Abroad when you have a pre-diagnosed mental illness, how to cope without your usual support network, how to tell the difference between homesickness and anxiety, when to stop ‘sticking it out’, how best to support a friend with a mental illness, and advice for LGBT students moving abroad.
We would absolutely love it if you would get involved, either to ask a question or to share your experiences with your fellow students.
Through our work with students and universities around the UK and beyond, we’ve gained a unique insight into the way the system works. University Study Abroad departments usually consist of a very small team of staff who lack the resources to give each student the individual attention they sometimes require. Teams of four staff may have to deal with up to 100 times that number of students. What’s more, mental health is a delicate issue and many staff lack the training or knowledge to be of any real help to a student in distress. On the other hand, for a student struggling with a mental health problem, reaching out and asking for help is an incredibly brave, difficult and crucial step. If their cry for help is ignored, downplayed or dismissed, it can do untold damage.
The first step in resolving this impasse is discussion. Movements such as Time to Change’s #TimetoTalk campaign have emphasised the importance of talking about mental illness in order to diminish the stigma. With our Mental Health Q&A Day, we aim to outline alternate strategies for dealing with a mental health issue abroad and to demonstrate that you don’t have to suffer in silence by cementing a support network of students and professionals, many of whom have experienced the same thing. There is no shame in asking for help.
We hope that you’ll join us.
*Don’t forget you can ask and answer anonymously on TYA Answers.
The Mental Health Q&A Day is for students to share positive experiences and coping strategies. The Third Year Abroad team are not qualified as medical practitioners or psychologists and so we recommend that students contact their own GP or university counselling service for professional advice (if needed). Whilst TYA Answers will provide information to signpost students in need onto specialist services, they are not responsible for alerting those services of the content on the site.Resources for further support:
- Papyrus Helpline, HOPELine UK: 0800 068 41 41/ firstname.lastname@example.org