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NZISA conference focuses on mental health

A year after launching, the New Zealand International Students’ Association has held its first conference focused on international students’ mental health and wellbeing.

Representatives of NZISA want students leaders to be able to better help others with mental health concerns. Photo: NZISARepresentatives of NZISA want students leaders to be able to better help others with mental health concerns. Photo: NZISA

New Zealand’s intled industry has focussed on wellbeing recently, after the launch of its 2017 wellbeing strategy

Held in Wellington, the conference attracted 100 international and domestic student leaders to discuss and learn how best to identify and address mental health concerns within the international student population.

“While there is a conversation about mental health I don’t think enough is being done”

“We saw a real need [for] better education for our student leaders on how to handle mental health in our own communities,” said Lukas Kristen, NZISA national president.

According to Kristen, students have a role to play in helping others seek professional guidance, adding it’s often easier for international students to discuss mental health concerns with those who understand their culture.

“We wanted to encourage them and show them… how you can direct students in your communities to the proper pathways and how you can help them cope with things while they’re talking to a professional,” he said.

Speaking with The PIE News, Kristen added there was more work needed to address a significant gap in cultural understanding of university counsellors.

“There needs to be a shift towards making practitioners more culturally competent. While there is a conversation about mental health and how it’s a problem, I don’t think enough is being done for it,” he said.

New Zealand’s international education industry has focussed on wellbeing recently, after the launch of its 2017 wellbeing strategy, and health minister David Clark backed NZISA’s work within the area

“The government wants all international students to have a great time living and studying in New Zealand, but we know that international students have unique challenges,” Clark wrote in a letter.

“The government cannot do this alone. We need to work alongside international students to ensure they are getting the services and support that would make the biggest difference to their wellbeing.”

The second NZISA conference will be held in Auckland in September 2019.

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