Helen Forbes-Mewett sheds light on international student mental health

Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre Deputy Director Helen Forbes-Mewett’s research offers insight into a vital issue that is often overlooked: the mental health of international students in Australia.

International students face significant challenges adjusting to life and study in Australia. Facing a new culture, an unfamiliar language, and pressure to succeed in their studies can take a significant toll on their mental health and wellbeing.

For over a decade, Monash University Senior Lecturer and MMIC Deputy Director, Helen Forbes-Mewett, has focused on the experiences of international students through her research and engagement with government and industry. In her books International Student Security (Cambridge University Press, 2010), International Students and Crime (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), and The New Security: Individual, Community and Cultural Experiences (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), Helen explores a number of issues faced by international students, including finance, work, housing, personal safety, and crime. Issues surrounding mental health appeared prominently in her interviews with both international students and university staff. Involvement in crime, for example, was strongly impacted by financial and housing insecurity, as well as feelings of stress and isolation from being away from traditional networks. In a context where international students are often seen simply through an economic lens, Helen’s work pays attention to the diversity of experiences of this growing population, adding depth and nuance to research and public debate.

While Helen has focused on the mental health of international students for a number of years, the past 12 months have seen renewed focus on this vital issue. Industry and government-supported initiatives are now looking to translate existing evidence into practical solutions to produce positive outcomes for international students.

Helen will be presenting keynotes at two upcoming events on this topic. On Thursday 27 June, Helen presents alongside researchers, practitioners, and international students at a conference that specifically focuses on the mental wellbeing of Chinese international students. Facilitated by the Centre for Holistic Health with support from Study Melbourne, this free event will be held at the Multicultural Hub in Melbourne CBD.

The following month, the annual International Education Association of Australia Student Life Forum will focus on mental health and building resilience among international students. Helen will offer practitioners in attendance an overview of the latest research into international student mental health. This event will run at University of Melbourne on Friday 5 July. To find out more about Helen's research, click here.