‘Suicide is the second biggest cause of death among young adults globally.’ WHO
According to an analysis report, released in 2019 by the Victoria Coroners Prevention Unit, Australia, and 27 (twenty-seven), international students committed suicide during their six-year period from 2009 to 2015.
Many consider it an underestimation and fear the number to be much more significant. The report suggested many reforms and mental health programs designed specifically for international students to prevent students from succumbing to substance abuse and suicide.
As the number of international students thronging various International universities increases each year, so are the numbers of these students succumbing to suicides.
Social and behavioural scientists, students, experts, and volunteers of various non-profit organizations, assisting students in fighting suicide, argue that the factors leading one towards suicidal tendencies differ between a local and an international student.
Studies show that most local students who committed suicide had the roots in an abusive childhood, substance abuse, or mental health issues. For international students, the causes relate to academic performance, cultural shock, or financial strains.
These issues are greatly compounded for the students who are not well-versed in the English language or the native tongue.
The pressures to succeed are immense on a student leaving home to further one’s academic goals. The financial constraints that a family endures making the arrangements coupled with the student’s expectations, the pressure to succeed mounts exponentially.
Once the initial adrenaline rush subsides and one begins to settle down in the new environment of a foreign University. It’s inevitable for anyone to feel lonely and homesick at times.
If everything in the public space is going smoothly, it’s most likely that a brief Skype call can cheer one up. Most international students with unbounded optimism, grit, and determination negate the cultural shock. For the ones who find it difficult, they try harder. Turning back now is never an option.
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Each outing alone or with peers is a brand new learning experience. These outings have a far-reaching and more profound impact on the psyche of an international student.
Even a trivial and mundane task like being able to use public payphones can dent one’s confidence. According to social and behavioural scientists, each of these novel experiences, however trivial might seem, adds to the international student’s overall wellness.
And being relaxed and cheerful on the surface while paddling like there’s no tomorrow underneath makes one deceptive. It might be a survival tactic, but it also affects the psyche of the individual.
But what happens when things are far from being rosy? How one cope with the mounting pressures can at all spheres of one’s life, without any emotional and social support system to fall back on?
How can one escape spiralling down the abyss of loneliness and gloom? A Skype call with family or old friends might be an appalling idea in times like these.
As per WHO reports, a total of approximately 175,000 young adults in the age group of 15- 29 years were claimed by suicides across the world in 2016. The number of males succumbing to suicidal tendencies was higher than the number of females.
A majority of these young adults were fighter suffering from mental health issues or substance abuse. This has led the WHO to declare suicide as the second major cause of death amongst young adults.
The report submitted by the International Students Committee, Australia, as a part of the research analysis conducted by the Victoria Coroners Prevention Unit, Australia, 2019, voice the urgent need of a documentation and support system for international students suffering from mental health issues and suicidal tendencies.
The Victoria Coroners Prevention unit also endorsed the unpredictability of the emotional and spiritual states of international students suffering from mental health issues due to the lack of documentation and support system.
As the number of students suffering and succumbing to suicide is on the rise, numerous researches are being carried out globally. The findings of student experts, psychologists, and researchers in studies of mental health and suicide involving international students from Asia studying in the United States of America, Canada, and Australia are as follows:
- Cultural shock: Uprooting and trying to accommodate oneself in a completely alien environment can be shocking.
- Language barrier: Language and communication in the absence of common ground can be paralyzing.
- Performance anxiety: High academic achievements in the past and one’s one zeal to excel come with a price.
- Substance abuse: Dependence on mind-altering substances to ‘fit’ one or as an escape route can take its toll mentally and physically.
- Financial constraints: A maximum earning of $400 a week, as permitted with a student visa, is often too less to support oneself and pay the tuition fee.
- Anxiety: The constant pressure to perform and merge with the new environment coupled with academic pressure, can make one anxious.
- Stress: Increased amounts of weight.
- Depression: Loneliness, anxiety, stress, and pressure can easily lead one to depression
- Family and social pressures: Family expectations and value attached by the native society can taxing and stressful.
- Hostile environment: Hostility in social life can negatively impact one’s psyche.
As studies of past cases reveal, financial burden, language barrier, and anxiousness to succeed are the major factors driving one towards mental health issues, substance abuse, and suicide.
Anyone suffering from mental health issues and suicidal tendencies needs to talk. They need to be heard and can only happen when:
- Stigmas attached to suicides are denounced.
- Anyone visibly depressed or exhibiting drastic personality changes are reported.
- Are tactfully led into opening up their minds and hearts through conversation.
- Are made to trust in the various agencies helping students to fight mental health issues and suicidal tendencies.
Suicide hotline numbers donning the University walls, websites, local newspapers, and social media pages carry can help anyone far from home.
Making a note of these numbers and adding them to one’s contact list will keep a lifeline open and reinforce the truth that one is not going down without a fight.