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Mental Health

Studying and traveling abroad is an exciting, but sometimes stressful, experience. It is important that all students make a plan for managing mental health abroad.

Before You Leave

Consider how you will manage your mental health abroad. For example, how you will cope to dramatic changes to your routine, how you will respond to jet lag, how prepared you are to encounter a new culture, and whether you can bring your medication abroad. Some medications commonly prescribed in the United States for anxiety or depression, as an example, cannot be legally brought into other countries. You need to discuss this with your primary care physician, the MSU Travel Clinic, or International SOS.

If you are an Education Abroad participant, 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. Information disclosed on that form is not shared with your program director, the Office for Education Abroad, or the Office for Global Health, Safety, and Security.

Non-Education Abroad students also have access to the MSU Travel Clinic and are strongly encouraged to meet with their travel health professionals before departure to discuss managing mental health abroad. 

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

If you experience serious difficulties while you're abroad, reach out to your program director or contact Global Health, Safety, and Security. 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:

  • 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 director or the Office of Global Health, Safety, and Security.
  • Tell your program director or the Office of Global Health, Safety, and Security if you are concerned that your friend is at risk.

International SOS

International SOS, MSU's medical and security assistance provider, offers emotional support services by calling one of their 24/7 Assistance Centers (+1-215-942-8478). They can connect you with virtual counseling and psychological support in several different languages. There is no additional cost to using this service.

International SOS membership cards are available to all Education Abroad participants and MSU-sponsored travelers. Travelers are also strongly encouraged to go paper-free and download the free International SOS app.