Why University Mental Health Day matters for international student mental health

Blog for members
03 March 2021
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Each year on 4 March, the university community in the UK comes together for University Mental Health Day. Although this year looks a little different because of the pandemic, university staff and students across the country will be taking the campaign online to raise awareness of student mental health. In this blog, Doug Little, who leads the International Student Mental Health project at the University of Nottingham shares why this day is so important for international students. 

 What is University Mental Health Day? 

The higher education community comes together for a day every March to bring mental health and wellbeing care and awareness to the forefront of the student experience. 

The day provides an opportunity to host events and activities to support mental health and wellbeing with a critical message that it's okay not to be okay. 

This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic universities will celebrate online, hosting events and activities that aim to bring about discussion, learning, and change. 

Why is the day important for international student mental health? 

A key role for University Mental Health Day is to raise awareness and challenge mental health stigma. This is important for international students because mental health and mental illness is not a western issue but a global issue.  No matter where you come from, you may be living mental health challenges.  

University Mental Health Day offers our international student community the chance to challenge mental health assumptions and expose myths and mistruths through awareness-raising events and campaigns. It shows that mental health is natural and something everyone has.
It introduces international students to speaking openly about mental health and wellbeing, perhaps for the first time. Sharing stories online and hearing others speak of their experiences and struggles helps us feel less alone. 

The day is also essential in teaching student's self-support techniques, with many universities hosting activities such as crafting circles, breathing seminars and yoga. 

The challenges international students face when joining us and studying in the UK are often overlooked, and days like these can be used to ensure that their voices are heard. We take the opportunity to highlight the intercultural learning international students face on top of their full-time studies – for example they have to navigate what can be at times complex and curious niceties in English societies, make sense of the NHS and cope with our weather and food. 

What is the International Student Mental Health Project? 

The International Student Mental Health Project is a national project that sets out to establish what works effectively for our international students in supporting positive mental health and wellbeing during their studies in the UK. 

We're making a real effort to engage with everyone interested in international student mental health, including universities, mental health services, students' unions, sector bodies, charities and organisations such as private student accommodation providers. 

UKCISA has played a significant role in supporting the project, including joining our Expert Advisory Panel and inviting us to contribute to events and campaigns. 

You can get involved in the project in lots of ways: 

  • Contact us to join our Expert Advisory Group to be at the heart of the conversation 
  • Add us on social media (Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram | YouTube
  • Check out our website, which includes loads of posts including advice and guidance, insight into the project, best practice in the sector and more.
  • Tell us about events and activities that you are hosting to support international students’ wellbeing and support
  • Share the project with colleagues – let's show our international student community we care
Join in and support University Mental Health Day this year by checking out your university and Student's Union's website to find out how to get involved in their activity – and get involved with the conversations on social media, by using the #UniMentalHealthDay hashtag. 

About the author

Doug Little has worked for various universities and different roles, ranging from project management, partnership development, international relations and operations. Doug has gained a keen understanding of the higher education sector and a passion for supporting mental health.
Doug attended the University of Essex (2008-2011) and the LSE (2011-2021), studying politics. During his studies, he realised quickly he couldn’t stand the idea of being a politician and jumped over to working for universities.

Currently, Doug leads the International Student Mental Health project. Funded by the Office for Students (OfS), this project is establishing what works to support international students in the UK, with the final goal of bringing this together into a toolkit with best practice and case studies

You can find Doug on LinkedIn or contact him via email Doug.Little@nottingham.ac.uk