Fleur Gao, Luthien Liu and Lillian ZuoACYA Women’s Network
Mental health first aid tips for overseas students
Recently, I read an article about the mental health of international students. The research shows that 45% of the participants reported experiencing depression, and 29% reported experiencing anxiety symptoms. It's known as the "overseas student syndrome".
Commonly, overseas students will face psychological stress while studying abroad:
1. Language difficulties are the first invisible source of stress that international students feel when they study abroad.
2. When international students first arrive in a new country, they cannot escape "culture shock"--the differences in cultural background and values between countries, which will inevitably bring about internal conflicts.
3. The experience of racial discrimination is like an invisible chronic trauma. Any form of racial discrimination (verbal and violent attacks), no matter whether it is intentional or unintentional, can have a significant negative impact on the mental health of international students.
4. Academic performance is among the international students' most significant stress sources. Overseas students might need to quickly change their thinking patterns and study methods and overcome language barriers.
Here is some practical mental health first aid advice for international students. Hopefully, you can find them helpful:
1. Understand the local culture: Getting to know your local culture! You can spend time browsing local news websites or listening to English podcasts. It is also a perfect opportunity to improve your English reading and writing skills to avoid the negative experiences of culture shock and language barriers.
2. Expand your hobby: stick to one thing that brings positive emotional feedback! It can grow your skills and give you a lot of satisfaction and a sense of achievement when you are alone.
2. Start with some self-care before dealing with negative emotions: Lack of sleep, unbalanced nutrition and insufficient exposure to sunlight can all contribute to further emotional instability. Remember to start with the three basic little things - eating, drinking and sleeping - to ensure your body is comfortable.
4. Maintain communication or social support: Most research on international students' mental health mentions that social support is one of the most effective ways to deal with emotional problems. Also, try to make one or two local friends. Cross-cultural friendships are great for international students to improve their subjective well-being and speed of cultural adaptation and practice their English speaking skills.
5. Don't be shy about asking for help: Due to the 'inward-looking' values of Eastern culture, many Chinese international students are reluctant to seek help and talk about their emotional problems and rarely use psychological support. If you are experiencing issues such as anorexia or insomnia that seriously affect your quality of life, find the Counseling Service Centre at your university or community or make an appointment as soon as possible.
Finding your engaging community
You sure read many posts here reminding you of the BS many women face trying to live in real life or to play online. I'm glad everyone shares so many inspiring experiences and is supportive. Please remember you're not alone in this foreign country.
I wanted to give every woman committee of ACYA a shoutout and do a positive post.
Studying is one of many things in my life in Australia. There are so many other things that I enjoy here.
If you're a girl gamer like me, you can find many gaming community spaces for ladies to hang out on Reddit, Twitch, and Discord. Most of them are English-speaking communities and have people from around the world.
I met some of my best girlfriends on the Discord server, and they're also based in Melbourne. We hang out in real life from time to time, and it's nice to meet people from entirely different backgrounds yet share the same interest!
Of course, you don't have to meet your online friends in real life. I think that's the best thing about having an online community, especially for people with social anxiety. I feel more comfortable chatting online than talking in real-life; chatting there is less pressure. Also, correcting mistakes before they are known is far easier in a text, especially since English is not my first language.
So try it, bestie, trust me! Especially if you're into pop-culture stuff like me, like Anime, Manga, Games, Drawing, and True crime documentaries. Most people in those online fandom servers are young millennials and gen z women like us. Everyone is so inclusive and polite.
Being part of an engaging community gives us a sense of belonging. It enables us to share personal relatedness and support the perpetual growth of each other.
I hope you can find some chill communities in Australia or online, and good luck with everything queen<3
Some safety tips for international students regarding sexual assault
Sexual assault is a criminal offence. Sexual harassment, forcible touching, indecent assault, rape, and any form of physical penetration are sexual assaults. Sexual assault can happen to anyone at any time. We can't stop it from happening, but as a woman, I hope I can advise you on preventive measures to protect yourself from harm.
● Be vigilant at all times in social situations. Drink alcohol in moderation so that you can control your behaviour soberly.
● If drinks are out of sight, they can easily be tampered with.
● Walk with confidence, not aimlessly and blindly.
● Beware of strangers on the road, in the car or at a party.
●Stay off the beaten path and in dimly lit areas.
● Pay attention to the actions of people around you. Acquaintances are more likely to commit crimes.
● Trust your instincts. Say "No!" loudly and firmly when you feel uncomfortable or the atmosphere is not right.
What should I do if I am assaulted?
Being sexually assaulted is often a difficult thing to talk about. Sexual assault is a serious crime; both men and women can be victims. After the incident, you should first contact the police or the Sexual Assault Services Action Team.
- Call the police on 000 from a pay phone or cell phone.
- Do not douche, shower, change your clothes or do any cleaning before reporting to the police and going to the hospital, as you may destroy crucial evidence.
- Do not drink alcohol or take tranquilisers or other drugs, as you need to describe the crime to the police.
4. Try to recall all the physical characteristics of the assailant.
As a victim, there is no need to feel guilty or ashamed. The police know that when a person is assaulted (whether sexually or in some other form), the victim is often in a state of emotional shock. They will find ways to simplify the case and help the victim stabilize. Often they will send female police officers to interview female victims, and the victim has the right to initiate this. The police might ask to contact a friend, family member, interpreter or religious advisor to accompany them to the crime scene to take a statement and investigate.
Further assistance can be found by contacting the relevant agencies in each state and territory of Australia, some of which are listed below.
The NSW Victims of Crime Assistance Phone Number provides 24-hour information, guidance and assistance service: 1800 633 063. More information can be found at http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/vs. If a person has been sexually assaulted in NSW, assistance and counselling services are available to the assaulted person at http://www.sexualassault.nsw.gov.au. For emergency assistance, call 1800 633 063.
Victoria has 15 anti-sexual assault centres that provide emergency or crisis care, counselling and support, advocacy and interpretation, available at http://www.casa.org.au/; the Victorian Sexual Assault Crisis Line: 1800 806 292 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
In Western Australia, the Sexual Assault Resource Centre provides emergency or crisis care, counselling and support, advocacy and interpretation for people aged 13 years and over, available at http://www.kemh.health.wa.gov.au/services/sarc/index.htm.
Tasmania has a Sexual Assault Assistance Service (SASS) that provides crisis advocacy, assistance with statements to police, and coordination of medical or court examinations, available at http://www. sass.org.au/ sass. org.au/; Laurel House, which provides services related to sexual assault crisis care, available at http://www.laurelhouse.org.au/.