Feature

Mental Health: At Home and Abroad

Institutions around the world are increasingly focused on the mental health and well-being of both inbound and outbound students.
Photo: Andrik Langfeld/Unsplash
 
Mark Toner

When Cheryl Woehr launched the international program at Truckee Meadows Community College in 1990, there were just over two dozen students, all from Japan, and they knew exactly where to go when they were struggling—whether it was academically, socially, or psychosocially.

“I was the counselor, I was the adviser, and I also taught a freshman orientation class,” says Woehr, who still serves as a counselor and full-time faculty member at the Nevada community college. “I got to wear all the hats, so when students had problems, they came to me.”

Nearly 3 decades later, the steady growth of international programs, combined with the well-documented rise in mental health issues among college students, has changed the equation. Depending on the study and the terminology, anywhere between one in three to more than half of all college students have faced some kind of mental health challenge. What has been described in some circles as a “mental health crisis” has impacted all areas of campus life, and study abroad programs are no exception.

“We were finding that some of our faculty were on site with students having a variety of very serious mental health concerns and were feeling at a loss,” says Kim Priebe, director of study abroad in North Carolina State University’s Office of Global Engagement. At many other institutions, study abroad officials have grappled with what to do when students are in crisis, including the need for emergency evacuation when mental health resources are not readily available locally.

“While the increase

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