Jan 09

PBSA and Support for International Students

With the private built student accommodation industry more reliant than ever on international students choosing to study at universities in the UK, why, then, are we not doing more to support those very students?

According to Student Minds’ latest report, of those international students who reported having a current or previous mental health issue, only 23% had shared this with their university. With less than a quarter of international students accessing support for their mental health, more can and must be done to support students.

With campaigns including Mental Health Awareness Week occurring in May each year, efforts are being made in the UK to reduce the stigma associated with mental health struggles. This is not always the case for international students studying in the UK, though, who may still feel impacted by said stigma.

In the National Student Housing survey coordinated by Global Student Living Index, Nurtur Student Living found that 31% of students at home in their buildings noted homesickness as a factor having a significant impact on their personal wellbeing, with 24% noting loneliness. Our Company Director, Harry Laybourn commented:

“Not only are international students affected by the above, but this is exasperated by the knock-on effect of the global pandemic.

“While the demand remains for international studying, the challenges faced have not gone away and are more prevalent now than ever before; the uncertainty around national lockdowns, coupled with language and cultural barriers, has continued to create worry amongst international students studying here in the UK.”

Although in the same survey around two in three students stated that their accommodation had a positive impact on their wellbeing, only 21% of students strongly agreed that their Students’ Union cares about their wellbeing. As a service dedicated to the student community, what more can be done to increase that figure?

A framework developed by Student Minds – The Mentally Healthy SUs Framework – aims to provide guidelines to support the adoption of a whole-union approach to mental health and wellbeing. This Mentally Healthy SUs Framework focuses on better signposting and communication for accessing advice, services, and information.

Student Unions’ support many wellbeing facilities, with funding often assigned to services including telephone lines and support groups. But how widely is this framework being adopted across Student Unions in the UK to ensure it achieves this whole-union approach?

A spokesperson for the UK’s Student Mental Healthy Charity, Student Minds, added:

“UK universities are home to over 600,000 international students. From our work and research, it’s clear that structural inequalities lead to a diversity of experiences and outcomes for international students.

“In our report, we put forward a number of recommendations to the sector to ensure that we are providing the right support that enables international students to thrive. One of the most key recommendations is: we must address international student loneliness and improve feelings of belonging. We need to support students in making friends through activities, societies and events, to give them opportunities to connect and to feel welcomed into the university community.”

A spokesperson for the UK’s Student Mental Health Charity, Student Minds

Given the correct resources and procedures, Student Unions’ can play a vital role in mental health and wellbeing in the community. When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, one size doesn’t fit all; Student Unions need processes for all eventualities and access to all available information and resources – something the Mentally Healthy SU Framework aims to achieve.

But ultimately, this isn’t solely on the shoulders of the Students’ Union or the University institute where international students study. Accommodation providers have a huge responsibility in ensuring their processes are efficient enough to help combat the stigma associated with mental health and be equipped with the resources needed to handle mental health and wellbeing responsibly.

That is why our management company, Nurtur Student Living ensures all employees complete a Mental Health First Aid qualification, and partner with Student Minds on an ongoing basis to gain practical skills and an in-depth understanding of mental health to spot the signs of mental health issues.

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