International Studies & Programs

Mental Health

Before You Leave on Your Education Abroad Program

Studying abroad is an exciting, but sometimes stressful experience. It's important to disclose your history on your Student Health/Emergency Treatment Authorization so the MSU Travel Clinic staff can advise you on managing any health conditions abroad. For example, some anxiety medications interact negatively with malaria-prevention medications, and cause unintended side effects, so disclosure is important.

If your condition is very serious, the Travel Clinic staff may recommend you speak with your regular physician about the challenges that a education abroad program may pose for you, along with possible coping strategies.

While Abroad 

Regardless of whether you have a pre-existing mental health condition, you may struggle with your mental wellness while you're abroad. Eating healthy, getting enough rest, exercising, and actively participating in program activities can help boost your mood. The Office of Education Abroad also offers some tips for coping with culture shock that may be useful.

If you're not sure if you're experiencing symptoms related to a mental health condition, you can take advantage of a free online screening tool available through Mental Health America.

If you experience serious difficulties while you're abroad, reach out to your program leader or contact OIHS. Together, we'll create a plan for moving forward which may include connecting you with a local mental health professional.

Helping a Friend

If you're ever in a situation where you think a friend may be in danger, contact your program director or local emergency services. The following signs may indicate that a friend is having a mental health issue:

  • Abrupt/radical changes in behavior, including a dramatic decrease in academic functioning
  • Isolation from others
  • Noticeable changes in mood, such as depression, apathy, or irritability
  • Poor attendance in classes
  • Sudden outbursts of anger
  • Attention/memory difficulties
  • Alcohol/drug abuse
  • Marked change in personal hygiene/appearance
  • Inappropriate crying
  • Bizarre statements or behavior
  • Suicidal statements 

To help a friend in distress, you should:

  • Be mindful of your friend's privacy.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Demonstrate concern and interest.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
  • Do not ask too many questions.
  • Resist the urge to diagnose or label.
  • Suggest your friend speak with a program leader or OIHS.

Resources

MSU Counseling Center

MSU Olin Health Center

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
+1-800-273-TALK (8255) (24/7 Phone Number)

U.S. Department of State - Students Abroad & Mental Health

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Mental Health and Travel