Inbound students Study Abroad and Exchange at the University of Melbourne
Students Suffering or Who Have Suffered from Anxiety or Depression
Anxiety and depression are the most common disabilities experienced by students. They are not the same thing, although the two conditions share many causes and some symptons.
Stress is a normal reaction to a situation where a person feels under pressure. For example, it's common for people to feel stressed or uptight when meeting work deadlines, sitting exams or speaking in front of a group of people. For some people these feelings are ongoing or happen for no apparent reason; this should not be confused with stress. For more information view the beyondblue web pages about anxiety disorders.
While we all feel sad, moody or low from time to time, some people experience these feelings intensely, for long periods of time and often without reason. People with depression find it hard to function every day and may be reluctant to participate in activities they once enjoyed. Depression is more than just a low mood, it's a serious illness. It is one of the most common of all mental health problems with one in five people experiencing it at some stage of their lives. beyondblue has more information on their web pages about depression.
Studying overseas can aggravate these conditions or, in some cases, bring them on in people. You will be dealing with a new and strange environment, different ways of doing things, perhaps a different language, different climate and, even where things are similar but not the same, that can take its toll. You need to be mindful of this. Here are some strategies for dealing with your situation:
- be aware of the signs that you are beginning to be affected so that you can take action;
- even before that, though, do things that will help to alleviate the triggers for you of anxiety/depression such as:
- regular exercise;
- eating healthily and regularly;
- in particularly busy and stressful times, take multi-vitamin tablets;
- sleep regularly (one hint is to drink chamomile tea in the evening before bed);
- meditate and/or do yoga or Tai Chi;
- don't drink too much alcohol;
- don't consume too much caffeine;
- don't take illegal drugs;
- give yourself treats/rewards to which you can look forward;
- keep in touch regularly with family and friends;
- listen to music that helps to calm you;
- try to talk to a friend or counsellor about anything that might be causing you to feel depressed or anxious and see if it can be resolved;
- arrange for a counsellor through the host institution with whom you can consult if need be;
- find out how to use that counsellor (there may be a special procedure of making appointments, for example), if you don’t use that person while well, so you can do it when you are sick;
- if you are on medication, if you aren't taking enough with you to last for the whole time away, make sure you know the generic name (this is likely to be different to the one by which it is sold in Australia) of it so that you can purchase it overseas;
- make sure early on that you can purchase it overseas and if not, determine how else you will get it (having someone post it to you is not a good idea because of import restrictions for drugs in many countries);
- know that it is no disgrace, if it all gets too much, to come home early but don't make a rash decision, talk to the exchange authorities first;
- make contact with students from Melbourne who are also going to be at the host institution at the same time so you can have someone familiar with where you come from to turn to if anything goes wrong;
- if possible, tell someone with whom you feel comfortable enough in your host country of your condition so that they can keep an eye out for you; and
- if you do need help, know what to do, who to contact at the host institution, at Melbourne, at home and who can do that if you can’t.
On the MGM application form for exchange we ask a question about whether "you have any chronic illnesses or disabilities, or do you suffer from anxiety or depression?" Our aim is to accommodate and prepare you better and not to preclude them from the exchange. You will be contacted by an MGM staff member to discuss what, if any, assistance you might need. Please be frank about your situation. Your conversation will be in confidence and we will act according to your wishes.
Counselling and Psychological Services
The University of Melbourne's Counselling and Psychological Services unit has some good online and web-based self-help material that you may find useful, even from overseas.
In addition, while not directly relevant, there are some useful suggestions in this brochure as well: Guide for StudentsReturning to Study After Mental Ill Health (4.2 MB pdf)
- beyondblue - A national, independent, not-for-profit organisation working to address issues associated with depression, anxiety and related disorders in Australia.
- Movement for Global Mental Health - Movement aiming to improve services for mental health worldwide. Includes a link to the World Health Organistion's 'Mental Health Atlas' capturing worldwide information on policies, programmes and related organisations