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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 for Education Abroad also offers some tips for successfully navigating a new cultural environment that you may find helpful.

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.

You may also want to take advantage of the International Student Support Program (ISSP). Scroll down for more information about this free, virtual service.

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.

My Student Support Program (My SSP)

This program is available to all MSU students including anyone studying abroad or on other kinds of MSU sponsored travel outside of the United States (US). We understand that studying, volunteering and interning in another country is exciting, but it also can be a time of change, adjustment, and stress. Here at Michigan State University we want to make sure your international engagement is an opportunity for positive growth. That is why we are offering the My Student Support Program (My SSP - formerly called the International Student Support Program) to support you while living and traveling outside of the US and its territories.

Brought to you by Morneau Shepell and Michigan State University, My SSP is free to use and your information is kept private. You have unlimited access to articles, tools, resources, and International Student Support Advisors that can help you succeed during your time overseas.

My SSP can help with:

  • adapting to new cultures
  • being successful in school and work
  • everyday issues while living outside of the US
  • relationships with friends and family
  • stress, anxiety, sadness, loneliness
  • and lots more!

You may call or chat with a Student Support Advisor at any time (24 hours a day/7 days a week) to receive immediate support or to schedule an appointment in the future. You can connect with an advisor who speaks your language and understands your culture, including the challenges you face while outside of the US.