Mental health for students far from home: Keeping mentally healthy far away


Dad: I know you’ve been at school a few months now, how goes it?

David: It’s fine, I guess; just nerve-wracking. School is just so tough right now.

Dad: You shouldn’t worry about it, okay? The real world is much more difficult and you can’t handle college?

David: Okay, I guess so.

Word of advice…

In the fictional scenario above, David’s dad may not understand the pressure David is under or be listening to his son. Studying abroad or being far away from home can make it difficult for students to express how they feel and seek help for their internal issues. Keeping students who are far from home mentally healthy, is not always the easiest task.

The National Association of International Educators and the National Association for Studying Abroad, or NAFSA, created a pamphlet about the mental health of students studying abroad or far away from home. NAFSA explains, “Moving to a different country for an academic term can mean the loss of a support network, a routine, and a familiar environment.” The student may also leave excited and ready to learn and slowly become distraught over being away from home for so long.

NAFSA offers advice in helping students adjust, including:

  • Encourage students to say goodbye
  • Encourage students to connect with old friends through messaging and social media
  • Encourage and help students find new activities and groups to join in

By encouraging students to share their emotions while also investing in opportunities around them, parents will be able to help their student thrive. In some cases though, students dealing with mental illness may have a bit more of a difficult transition than other students. Telling a student to get over it since the real world is much more difficult, will not help the situation.

Mental health plan for when you’re far, far away

The stigma of mental illness has led many to believe that students with a form of mental illness or disorder will be incapable of traveling abroad. The reality is that while a student with a mental illness, may need medication and extra help, he or she is more than capable. The best course of action is to set up a plan for the student with a mental illness studying abroad or leaving for college. The Students Abroad program recommends to:

  • Discussing the condition with doctor prior to leaving home
  • Research the culture and the culture’s view on mental illness
  • If it is through a university, ask the university about mental health services overseas
  • Search into the requirements for traveling with medication abroad

Having a plan will help the student to be prepared for studying abroad, while dealing with a mental illness. If a student is leaving for college, call the university and find out what services are available ahead of time. While it may be a new location and a strange environment, having a plan can equip the student for the transition.

White River Academy is not a second chance school nor a continuation school, rather a residential boarding school offering a new start through addiction, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment modalities. Combined with character value instillation and service-leadership projects, WRA helps shift boys’ focus from themselves to the world outside of their own issues thereby promoting positive growth. Through the use of cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectal behavioral therapy and other methods, the boys will find their place in the world. For more information or to register, feel free to call 866-520-0905.

Read Part 2 of this series here.


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