Supporting international students: Mental health and acculturation

3 to 3.5 hour instructor-led workshop
For people leaders and employees


Succeeding in postsecondary education requires facing many challenges. International students experience 2.5 times the self-stigma around mental health when compared to domestic students and are half as likely to reach out for help.

These challenges can present unique difficulties for international and domestic ELS students. With the goal of driving International student success and thereby increasing enrollment and retention rates, this workshop will provide institutions with an understanding of the unique mental health and acculturation hurdles faced by these students. the unique mental health and acculturation hurdles faced by international students.

Participants will also learn about support mechanisms, which they can adopt when building their own support strategy framework to help international students overcome these hurdles.

This workshop is ideal for all those who interact with international students on a regular basis. This includes international student advisors, counsellors, professors, residence advisors, admissions, campus security, academic advisors and student leaders. Participants will be given the tools they need to address issues that international students face.

Learning objectives

At the end of this workshop, participants will be able to do the following:

  • Recognize the unique acculturation and stigma-related challenges often faced by international students
  • Increase your awareness of mental health among postsecondary students
  • Apply a framework for identifying and supporting international students
  • Recommend additional resources for support


In addition to the above, participants will learn to:

  • Understand the challenges faced by international students and the subsequent acculturation and mental health issues that they may experience
Workplace Impact

Workplace Impact

  • Acknowledgement that international students face additional challenges when transitioning to postsecondary due to acculturation
  • Identify both somatic and psychological ways that international students may present their distress
  • Provide support within your professional capacity to assist international students
  • Refer individuals and departments to resources that can support international students in ways that extend beyond your professional capacity
  • Think big and consider a systemic approach to supporting international students


Delivered as a 3.5 to 4-hour instructor-led workshop for individuals who interact with international students on a regular basis. This workshop takes a psychoeducational approach to training. Within this approach, the goals are to provide an opportunity for participants to develop an awareness and basic understanding of the mental health concerns affecting international students while providing a safe space for discussing their challenges and experiences.



  1. Transition challenges: high school to postsecondary (i.e. college, community college, university, continuing education, etc):
  • Examine some of the cultural differences that drive acculturation and result in additional stress for international students
  • Explore the experiences of international students in the context of the Cycle of Adaptation
  • Explore Canadian and US statistics on the challenges of transitioning from high school to university
  • Gain awareness of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory as a framework for understanding how an international student’s culture can be different from our own


  1. Mental health amongst post-secondary students
  • Understand the importance of prevention
  • Discuss how Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory can influence preventative behaviours
  • Understand that while your role is not to diagnose mental illnesses among students, your focus should instead be on acknowledging what you see or hear, addressing the student in the most helpful way possible by offering immediate assistance within your capacity, and guiding them towards additional supports that are beyond your capacity
  • Explore the ways in which international students may present mental health issues


  1. International student challenges
  • Explore how cultural, linguistic, social and academic challenges can influence the success of international students and their overall mental health
  • Discuss how these challenges impact international students at the milestone that you are involved in during their postsecondary experience


  1. Stigma
  • Discuss how an international student might experience stigma
  • Explore the connection between the challenges faced by international students and stigma
  • Discuss the four types of stigma that exist (self-, public/societal, associative and structural) and how they present in the context of language and culture
  • Explore data demonstrating that stigma is elevated among international students yet they are largely underrepresented in counselling on campus


  1. Framework for supporting international students
  • Explore a three-step framework for supporting international students (1. Identify 2. Support-3. Refer) and discuss actions you can take at each step 
  • Observe a demonstration of how to apply the three-step framework then practice applying it in a small group activity using scenarios associated with the cultural, linguistic, social and academic challenges that international students may face


  1. Wrap-up and resources
  • Reflect on additional ways of supporting international students’ mental health in the unique context of your educational institution


Those who interact with international students on a regular basis.