NAFSA 2019 Workshop Spotlight: Managing Mental Health Issues and Suicidal Ideation Abroad

April 08, 2019

By Brad Sekulich

As education abroad professionals, we have led the expanding discussions in our field about health and safety. Physical, emotional, and mental health topics are critical components of our programs, orientations, and day-to-day work and have been for quite some time. It is our professional responsibility to stay informed on the latest developments, and we must all remain active in these ongoing conversations.

Suicidal ideation is distinct from, but not unrelated to other aspects of health and safety abroad. Institutions and program providers will be called upon to recognize and respond to cases of suicidal ideation among their program participants.  In my recent conversation with Barbara Lindeman, director of student international health, safety and security at the University of Missouri, she identifies the importance of this year 's Current Topics Workshop (CTW): "Managing Mental Health Issues and Suicidal Ideation Abroad." 

Describe why a workshop on this topic is important to the field of international education.

Lindeman: International Education professionals are in unique position to recognize students experiencing mental health concerns (some of which may be exacerbated by participating in University-related travel), respond with empathy, and connect students to appropriate mental health resources.  Participants in this workshop will practice these skills, including recognizing and responding to suicidal ideation. The workshop trainers, Wendy Berger and Scott Sokoloski, two clinical psychologists, and Marcia Henisz, Landes Holbrook, and myself, three full-time health and safety professionals, will provide several models of collaboration between international educators and mental health professionals for preparing students and program leaders and discuss training and resources, including on-line resources such as "7 Cups of Tea."

Who should attend this workshop?

Lindeman: The workshop is designed to meet the needs of all international educators who send or lead students on international University-related travel, including, but not limited to, Education Abroad professionals and International Health and Safety professionals.

Tell us how participants will actively engage in the learning this workshop offers.

Lindeman: Participants will process mental health case studies and practice initiating conversations with students who may be experiencing mental health concerns.

What can attendees hope to learn and take back to their offices and colleagues by attending this workshop? 

Lindeman: In addition to honing their skills for assisting students with mental health concerns, attendees will learn about several models for collaboration with mental health professionals and training and resources they can implement on their home campuses.  

NAFSA 2019 Workshops

All of the CTWs at NAFSA 2019 give you the opportunity to engage with leading experts in the field, to expand your knowledge, and walk away with practical applications to further enhance professional growth and development. To learn more about "Managing Mental Health Issues and Suicidal Ideation Abroad" and all of the workshop offerings in Washington, DC, check out the NAFSA 2019 Annual Conference Preconference Workshops at www.nafsa.org/ac19workshops.


Brad Sekulich is the 2019 NAFSA Annual Conference Committee Workshop Coordinator and the director of office of education abroad at UNC Charlotte.


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