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Looking after your mental health as an international student

There are many different ways to build resilience

International student wearing a paisley black shirt and an earring while he smiles at something funny on his phone
International student wearing a paisley black shirt and an earring while he smiles at something funny on his phone

We all know it’s important to care for our bodies and our physical health. But did you know your mental health is just as important and needs looking after in the same way?

Mental health includes your emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. Just about everyone struggles with their mental health at some point in their lives, but the good news is that there are many different ways to support your mental health and your resilience to the stresses of life.

Your mental health as an international student

Studying can be stressful for any student – particularly when a big assignment is due or during exams. This is even more the case for international students. If you’ve moved to Australia to study, you may experience culture shock, language difficulties, financial stress, study stress and loneliness or isolation due to being far from your friends and family at home.

It’s okay to feel stressed, worried or unsure sometimes – in fact, it’s perfectly understandable. But it’s important to know what to look out for regarding your mental health, what support is available if you require it, and some general ways to look after your mental wellbeing. The sooner you can help yourself feel better, the better off you’ll be.

What to look out for in your mental health

It’s important to check in with yourself regularly to monitor your mental health. This will allow you to identify if there’s a problem and address it before it gets worse. Things to watch out for include feeling persistently overwhelmed, sad, scared or exhausted, and difficulty sleeping or eating – particularly if any of these are affecting your ability to enjoy life.

Support services for international students

There are several places you can find support if you’re struggling with your mental health. If you’re feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, make sure you reach out to friends and family – just talking things through with someone can be very beneficial.

As an international student, you should have access to support through your educational institution’s health service, other support services and any services specifically for international students.

international student wearing a leather choker necklace and gold hoop earrings dancing in the study hall with her friends

If you need it, seek professional support, such as a therapist, counsellor or psychologist. To see a psychologist and receive a rebate under your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), you’ll need a referral and a mental health care plan from a GP. 

Check out these free mental health programs for additional support, as well as batyr – a mental health support service specifically for young people, run by young people.

Batyr also offers a free app - OurHerd app. A mental health storytelling app that empowers young people to confidently and safely share stories of lived experience and amplifies youth voices to create positive change.

If you or someone you know needs help now, please call:

If life is in danger, call Australia’s national emergency line on 000 (Triple Zero).

General mental health and wellbeing tips

Here are some tips to help support your mental health and wellbeing, even if you’re feeling content and happy.


Mindfulness is a really useful tool for taking care of your mental wellbeing. It involves focusing on the present moment and is effective for alleviating stress and anxiety, and increasing focus and a feeling of calm.

Smiling Mind is an Australian organisation with a free, easy-to-use app that’s all about mindfulness.


Exercise is an excellent way to support your mental health. It can loosen tight muscles and generate mood-boosting chemicals – exercise can actually make you feel happier!

Aim to exercise regularly: a short walk every day is a great place to start. It’s also a good idea to try different types of exercise to find one you enjoy, such as yoga, boxing, cycling or jogging.

Eat well

Another important way of looking after your mental health is nourishing yourself with
good food. What you eat can have a significant effect on your wellbeing – different foods can help lift your mood, improve concentration and provide energy.

Make sure you eat regularly to avoid experiencing a blood sugar crash, which can make you feel sad, depressed or anxious.

Sleep well

Sleep is vital for mental health. If you’re underslept, you may struggle to study effectively or have the energy to do fun things, and you might experience more stress and anxiety.

Keep an eye on your caffeine consumption – if you drink lots of coffee or energy drinks during the day, this can affect your sleep. Feeling tired can lead to consuming even more caffeine but never feeling properly rested.

Sleep hygiene is also important. Remember to wind down before bed, which can involve staying away from screens, reading a book or listening to a podcast, or doing a short relaxing meditation. Check out these other tips for getting a good night’s sleep