One in five students experiences mental health problems during college. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported this frightening figure, pushing advocates to intensify the call for mental health awareness.

For international students, mental health concerns are a serious matter, where challenges are often unique and more profound. Unlike ordinary stressors, issues with mental health can be detrimental and even fatal when left untreated.

The stigma around mental disorders often holds back foreign students from speaking out. It’s necessary to unshackle challenged students from these misconceptions before undergoing proper remedy.


Depression has different levels of severity and each case is unique. Depressive episodes are usually associated with academic pressure and financial stress.

Intense depression has already claimed the lives of many students aged 10 to 24. This makes it the third leading cause of death in youth today, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

One of the visible manifestations of depression is a rapid decrease in weight. This is influenced by strong feelings of restlessness and guilt. 

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder causes sufferers to experience intense mood swings. It causes an emotional shift from extremely high moods to depressive episodes.

Foreign students with bipolar disorder often experience loss of appetite, slowed behavior, and a decrease in concentration. In some cases, this disorder includes other issues such as psychosis and anxious distress.

Extreme mood swings disrupt the balance in a student’s life. If left untreated, bipolar disorders can get worse over time.

Eating Disorders

Foreign students also experience eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. What’s more concerning is that these eating disorders have the highest mortality among mental health disorders. 

Anorexia is rooted in intense caloric restriction from the fear of gaining weight. On the other hand, bulimia usually involves unhealthy ways of weight restrictions such as forceful vomiting. 

Students aged 18 to 21 years old are more vulnerable to eating disorders.

How to Address Mental Health Challenges

Facilitate treatment-seeking. The fear of judgment, shame, and ostracism prevent international students from seeking help. There is a strong need for a normalized discussion on mental wellbeing and other proactive efforts to encourage help-seeking. 

Responding to the signs. Most mental health challenges have visible manifestations or symptoms that serve as warning signs. When concerned, it’s best to reach out without crossing personal boundaries.

Prioritize professional response. Not everyone has the right nor has the responsibility of diagnosing someone else’s condition. Only experienced practicing professionals can evaluate the mental fitness of a student. 

Remodeling of admission protocols. Schools are equally responsible for the general welfare of their students. Universities must adjust the admission process for mental health-sensitive cases.

Counseling in the native language. Foreign students find it hard to explain their condition if they aren’t fluent in the language of the host country. It’s vital to bridge students with local counseling providers that perform consultations in their native language. 

Mental health challenges are serious concerns among international students, but there are many ways to address them. For more topics on mental health, social well-being, and the overall welfare of foreign students, read more stories here at MSM Unify.