International Students & Suicide

Along with the stress that many college students face, international students often experience additional pressures that can contribute to feelings of depression or thoughts of suicide. During their time in school, international students must adjust to a new culture, use a second language in everyday exchanges, and learn about new social situations and interaction styles. International students also often face added financial pressures because there are fewer sources of financial aid available to non-U.S. citizens, and they are often prohibited from working outside of the school they attend (Mori, 2000). The stigma of mental illness is greater in many cultures than in the United States, and many international students are hesitant to seek mental health treatment because they think it would be perceived negatively (Yi, Lin, & Kishimoto, 2003). Overall, international students who have difficulty coping with any of these additional pressures can experience heightened levels of stress and depression; however, international students who are reluctant to seek professional help for cultural or financial reasons might withdraw from friends and family and, as a result, actually increase their risk for suicide.

INTERNATIONAL STUDENT RISK FACTORS FOR SUICIDE

    * Homesickness and culture shock

    * Language barriers and interpersonal challenges

    *Academic challenges, including difficulty understanding lectures, participating in class discussions, and completing
      reading/writing assignments

    * Financial difficulties

    * Feeling socially or culturally misunderstood

    * Experience(s) with prejudice

    * Social isolation

    * Discomfort with seeking mental health services

    * A recent loss or family difficulty

If you or someone you know is having a mental health emergency, or if you want to understand more about how international students can access local and university mental health services, call the University Health Center Mental Health Service at (301) 314-8106, Monday through Friday 8:30am-5pm. After hours, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This hotline is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. In case of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.