Guide to Best Practice in International Student Mental Health

A guide to international student mental health

The Guide to Best Practice in International Student Mental Health is a comprehensive review into international student mental health in NSW and a resource for education providers to use to help students.

Project dates

October 2017-June 2018

Project overview

English Australia has published an online and print version of its ‘’Guide to Best Practice in International Student Mental Health.’’ The Mental Health Guide includes sections about: challenges for international education institutions in providing mental health support for students; the types of mental health difficulties ELICOS students experience; key features of effective practice in international student mental health; and resources available to international education institutions. One student advisor from an ELICOS college commented: “The [Mental Health] Guide has initiated a conversation among institutions and hopefully we will keep it going. Such a useful resource to keep on our desks!”

Project highlights

A highlight of the Mental Health Guide project was the process of collating data and best practice examples from ELICOS colleges throughout NSW and Australia at various mental health forums. The forums and the publication of the Mental Health Guide have started a robust conversation about international student mental health in our sector and beyond. It has put this issue on colleges’ list of priorities. Another highlight was when Study Travel Magazine published an article about the Mental Health Guide.

English Australia

Project background

Research into international student mental health has established certain factors which contribute to the increased incidence and severity of mental health problems encountered by international students (Forbes Mewett & Sawyer, 2011, Veness, 2016). Factors include adjusting to a new study environment and being away from their families. ELICOS students have additional factors which place them at an even higher risk of mental health issues. These factors are their often very low English language proficiency, which compounds their stress and alienation, and the fact that some ELICOS students are under 18 years of age. English Australia sees this project as being of utmost importance to ELICOS student welfare in NSW and to the reputation of Australia as a safe and responsible host nation for English language students.

Project outcomes

Events and presentations based around the Mental Health Guide’s contents were held throughout NSW and Australia. These events helped raise awareness among international education institutions of the importance of effective policies and procedures to enable strong support for students experiencing mental health difficulties. Discussions raised during the events motivated colleges to promote mental health awareness among their students and to ensure that early intervention is a priority for students experiencing difficulties. Another positive outcome has been the creation of a network of professionals from the ELICOS sector who work in the area of student mental health. English Australia has leveraged this network to form an ongoing Special Interest Group in Student Mental Health.

English Australia

Project deliverables

English Australia published the Mental Health Guide following consultation with the sector, where it has been well received. An Academic Manager from an ELICOS college stated: "Supporting our students' mental health is essential, especially in these times of upheaval. The Guide provides practical, relevant guidance for frontline staff and we thank English Australia for the initiative!". In addition to publishing the guide, English Australia held a Mental Health Forum for ELICOS colleges in NSW in December 2017 and has presented findings from its mental health survey and the Mental Health Guide at various international education events such as UECA PD Fest Sydney in May 2018, UNSW Global PD Day in August 2018, an English Australia webinar session, the Australian International Education Conference (AIEC) in October 2018 and International Education Association Conference (ISANA) in December 2018.

Challenges and recommendations

One challenge of the project was limiting the contents of the Mental Health Guide to ensure it was user friendly and not overwhelming. The guide needed to be easy to pick up and read as a reference on different topics. After presenting the guide to audiences at different events and conducting the Mental Health Forums, English Australia recognised the need for basic training for frontline staff in the area of student mental health if early intervention was to happen. To this end, English Australia ran 'Accidental Counsellor' Mental Health Training workshops in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney in late 2018 and early 2019.

Further information

The Guide to Best Practice in International Student Mental Health can be accessed online at:

For more information, please contact English Australia on (02) 9264 4700 or via email: or visit their website