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Student mental health problems “alarming”

Student mental health figures are “alarming”, with many international students’ mental health worsening over the course of the pandemic, according to a new study.

Some students surveyed were experiencing “emotional and physical disturbances” that were “causing them to wash their hands repeatedly". Photo: Pexels

Lockdowns have overall “worsened problems like loneliness, stress, anxiety and alcohol misuse”

Professors at universities from across the world collected data for the study, named Pre and Post-Pandemic (COVID-19) Mental Health of International Students: Data from a Longitudinal Study, which was published in the Dovepress medical journal.

Examining cohorts of international students over a certain period of time, the authors found that lockdowns have overall “worsened problems like loneliness, stress, anxiety and alcohol misuse”.

“[This occurs] particularly in vulnerable populations, because of the isolation they cause, the lack of one-on-one interaction, and the feelings of isolation on major life events,” the study reads.

“[It] indicates that international students’ mental health was good in the pre-pandemic phase compared to their mental health in the post-pandemic phase,” it confirmed.

It has been previously reported in The PIE that international students around the globe have been experiencing issues with their mental health, for various reasons – in Japan, overseas students who hadn’t been able to return to the country to continue their studies saw their mental health decline.

Students who were applying to study in New Zealand were even refraining from reporting poor mental health on visa applications for fear of being rejected.

The pandemic, according to the study, has resulted in long-term effects including a change in behaviour, stress, and previously mentioned depression and anxiety – to the point where some students surveyed were experiencing “emotional and physical disturbances” that were “causing them to wash their hands repeatedly and avoid crowded places”.

One section of the study surveying students in China found that women suffered higher rates of PTS symptoms in “the areas of negative thinking or emotion, re-experiencing and high energy”, as well as younger students showing more symptoms of issues like depression or anxiety than students above the age of 30.

The study concluded that mental problems in students are “alarming” and that universities need to step in to assist with psychological services.

“There is a need to raise awareness about psychological issues during pandemics through multiple media platforms,” the study said.

“[Students] need supportive people who can listen to their problems”

“Covid-19 affected the mental health of international students, so [it would be] helpful for them to take care of their mental health and come into normal lives by getting help from supportive people, with psychological counselling/guidance.

“They need supportive people who can listen to their problems and try to solve their issues,” the study directed.

It also pointed out that those in urban areas are more likely to have more depression and anxiety, both in “pre and post pandemic states”.

“Dealing with the newfound forced independence this age brings, university life is already riddled with mental health vulnerabilities. This new pandemic, shutting down half of the world, produces a new set of worries for people worldwide.

“Even though the physical aspects of the disease are being studied, the mental strains for the lockdown and the fear of the virus have not been given the proper attention,” it added.

The study was spearheaded by the China-Japan Union Hospital of Jilin University, and was co-written by professors from various departments at universities in both China and Pakistan.

If you need support, help is available.

Lifeline: 131 114
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

New Zealand
Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Samaritans: 116 123

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988

TalkSuicide: 1 833 456 4566

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