York International launches #YIFeel Campaign
York International (YI) has launched the #YIFeel campaign, a student-led mental health initiative for international students, coinciding with the surge of international admissions from all over the province.
Currently there are over 6,200 international students enrolled at York from over 178 countries, with numbers expected to rise.
In fact, Ontario universities have seen an 88.5 per cent increase of international student enrollment since 2010.
The campaign came as a response to a pressing need expressed by international students. The campaign engages students by giving them a platform through a range of means, including visuals, blogs, videos, and social media, to share their personal experiences with mental health.
“It is important for YI to support the mental health campaign on campus by engaging international students,” says Diana Ning, associate director at YI.
“Compared to domestic students, international students face more challenges when talking about mental health,” adds Ning.
#YIFeel aims to address four key challenges that international students face: language barriers, issues with adapting to a new environment, dealing with expectations from one’s native country, and coping with family crises abroad, says Ning.
“This campaign is important because it is creating progressive spaces for students to talk about their understanding of the concept—mental health—their experiences with it, and what can be done to further bridge the gaps in the mental health services provided,” says Vishwaveda Joshi, a global liaison at YI, and one of the students spearheading the campaign.
“Ultimately, this campaign is just one step towards our attempt to ensure that everyone who faces mental health challenges can ask for support and get access to it,” adds Joshi.
Gianluigi Zito is a second-year Physics and Astronomy international student who has contributed to the #YIFeel online blog: “As an international student, this campaign gave me a better and fuller perspective of mental health and its importance. I never came across this before, due to the lack of information and services back home.”
Ning elaborates that the campaign has two main objectives: “We hope to engage international students and promote their awareness of mental health issues through the message, ‘We Care! We Support,’ and engage international students to share and discuss any mental health challenges they may face, in order to educate the York community and bring collaborated support to them.”
York’s Mental Health and Wellness Operational Plan of 2016 to 2019 suggests an increase in accessibility of mental health care services on campus through outlets such as YI.
Joshi expresses: “We hope the dialogue that has been initiated by YI, and members of the global community allows students to engage in conversation with the larger York community regarding mental health, and encourages mental health service providers to create a system that can truly meet the needs of international students.”
York’s Mental Health and Wellness resources can be accessed at: http://mhw.info.yorku.ca/finding-help/