Recent news about a Hyderabad woman who went to the US two years ago to pursue higher education but was found starving on the streets of Chicago fills our hearts with sorrow. Sadly, this is not an isolated case; numerous students go overseas hoping to lead better lives. However, they often find themselves battling depression, and tragically, some even succumb to suicide due to factors like homelessness, financial difficulties, parental pressure to send them money, and drug abuse.
Another recent incident involved an Indian student who was discovered living under a water-logged and rat-infested bridge. With only a blanket and a small bag of clothes, he was forced to leave his shared accommodation as he failed to pay the rent.
There are so many incidents of international students bearing the brunt of homelessness caused by financial difficulties. Students who are of an impressionable age may find it challenging to cope with situations abroad that they have never faced in their home country. It takes a mental toll on them when they feel homesick, go through cultural shock, and face academic performance anxiety. This entire situation unfolds as a consequence of inadequate support from friends and family.
Parents do not know what their children are going through because students feel pressured to make a better living, therefore, avoid showing their vulnerability to their families. Little did they know that there lies a harsher truth that is frequently concealed from the public view amid the glittering attraction of opportunity. Students come to a foreign land with dreams in their eyes, but due to higher expectations from them in terms of money, they end up sacrificing their studies and health, leading them to slip into depression.
Feeling Of Loneliness:
When an 18-year-old student arrives in a foreign land, they don’t have the friend circle, parents, and relatives to fall back on as they would in India. In their home country, a student likely grew up with a familiar friend circle comprising childhood friends, schoolmates, and neighbours. These friends offer a sense of belonging and emotional support. However, overseas, students have to start from scratch in building new friendships and social connections. This process can be intimidating and can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, making them more susceptible to mental health problems.
Even if students have friends abroad, their peers are so occupied with their work and are not able to take out time for students. In such situations, friends and family should step forward to comfort their children during the initial period of six to eight months and ensure they stay on the right track and do not make any wrong decisions.
Academic Performance Anxiety:
Family and cultural expectations for academic success weigh heavily on many Indian students. The fierce competition in foreign colleges can cause stress and self-doubt, which can result in a cycle of poor performance and worry.
Moreover, it’s crucial for parents to regularly engage with their children about their studies, asking how they are progressing and if they require any assistance or support.
Indian students’ aspirations to study abroad may be hampered by financial difficulties. At times they have unnecessary pressure to pay the loan during the first year of their studies. Even though they have part-time jobs or scholarships, they sometimes struggle to manage their bills, which causes some of them to become homeless. Their misery may be made worse by the worry that they may let their families down at home.
Diverse cultures can be enlightening, but they can also be confusing, resulting in cultural shock and discrimination. Indian students may experience prejudice or discrimination, which can devastate their self-esteem and sense of identity. Without the right help, handling such situations can be pretty tricky.
It is also important to note that before students select any country as their destination, they should assess the country’s overall quality, the programme’s reputation, and its ranking. Additionally, understanding the country’s culture is pertinent because success depends on their acceptance of the culture.
Why Don’t Students Seek Help?
Some Indian students may be less likely to seek assistance because of the stigma associated with mental illness in some communities, leaving their psychological problems unsolved. It happens due to a lack of awareness about mental health. However, if mental health issues are not treated on time, they can lead students to resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drug abuse, to numb their pain or escape their harsh realities. Substance abuse can quickly spiral out of control, leading to severe consequences for their physical and mental well-being.
Support By Universities
Universities are also offering help through trained counsellors who assist students in dealing with depression. Counsellors are available for appointments and can provide support when needed. Additionally, students should also consider the university as one of their best friends and seek help from qualified counsellors. Studying abroad can be an exceptional and enriching experience, especially when the primary focus is on exploring the world rather than succumbing to stress.
Parents’ Support Matters Most
Parents’ support is crucial for students studying abroad. Some students worry about disappointing their parents, who invest in their overseas education; therefore, they do not confide in their parents and suffer in silence. However, parents must encourage open communication through video calls and messages/letters, showing unconditional love. They should also encourage their children to complete their studies without worrying about money. This helps students share their challenges and successes comfortably. With this strong support, students can overcome obstacles, seek guidance, and excel in their education confidently.
The Bottom Line
Heartbreaking examples of Indian students abroad succumbing to despair, homelessness, drug misuse, and suicide serve as sobering reminders of the value of putting mental health and support networks first for students who are away from home. It is essential to increase awareness of the difficulties they face and eliminate the stigma associated with mental health.
Additionally, family and friends must maintain contact and vigilance while sending their loved ones abroad. Let’s cooperate to make sure Indian kids starting this life-changing journey don’t get lost in the shadows and instead come out stronger, wiser, and more mentally tough, prepared to impact the world positively.