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Study reveals one in four international college students seek mental health support due to stress

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Corporate / Mental Health / United States

Study reveals one in four international college students seek mental health support due to stress

The new study, published by Morneau Shepell and The Jed Foundation (JED), showed that access to different kinds of mental health support modalities resulted in international students seeking and receiving more support

CHICAGO, August 11, 2020 – Morneau Shepell, a leading organization in international and domestic student support, and The Jed Foundation (JED), an organization dedicated to supporting the mental health of teens and young adults, published a study examining the mental health needs of international college students and the use of technology for mental health support. The findings showed that a choice of modalities – including text/chat, after-hours access, and the ability to receive mental health support in a student’s primary language – resulted in more international students seeking and receiving support than are currently using campus counseling services, which positively impacts students’ academic success and student retention. The research was based on trends within Morneau Shepell’s student support program, My SSP.

As part of the study, a survey of more than 500 students found that international students were reaching out for support on a range of issues including stress (25.4 percent), depression (12.9 percent), academic issues (11.2 percent), anxiety (10.3 percent), relationships (6.4 percent), social isolation (5.6 percent) and cross-cultural issues/language (2.6 percent). The study also found that 71 percent of international students agreed or strongly agreed that if My SSP were only available in English, they would not have used it.

My SSP aims to support the wellbeing and retention of college students by complementing existing campus resources. This student support program allows institutions to expand their reach to help meet international and domestic students’ mental health needs through 24/7 chat, video, and tele-mental health support, which connects students with credentialed master’s and Ph.D.-level clinicians who speak their language and understand their unique challenges. Analysis also showed that 64 percent of international students accessed My SSP outside of their regular campus counseling centers’ office hours.

The study, “Using Technology to Access Mental Health Support Services for International Students Attending American Colleges and Universities,” is a partnership between The Jed Foundation’s JED Campus Program and Morneau Shepell that examined how using technology to access mental health support services might benefit international students. The study drew upon data from Morneau Shepell’s My SSP and JED Campus, in which JED partners with colleges and universities to assess and enhance existing mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention efforts, and to create positive, systemic change on campuses. JED partnered with Morneau Shepell’s My SSP because it is the only one of its kind created with international students in mind, with a global reach and unique multilingual and cultural components available to students.

“We have been so lucky to partner with individuals who are committed to helping students navigate the emotional challenges of college, preventing suicide, and increasing mental health support and student success,” said Barb Veder, vice president of global clinical services, research lead, and chief clinician at Morneau Shepell. “The focus on international student mental health support and success has been a priority of My SSP since its inception. The pandemic’s impact and other recent events have exacerbated the challenges international students continue to contend with, but we know that students accessing My SSP get support and encouragement to overcome these issues and be successful. We take great pride in the rewarding and meaningful work we do to support students and their campus communities.”

“In addition to the mental health challenges that international students may already face, experiences of racism and xenophobia may also contribute to increased levels of stress," said JED's chief clinical officer Nance Roy. "Part of our mission is to provide the tools and resources that can help support students as they grapple with ongoing change and uncertainty."

Twenty-three American institutions were part of this study from September 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019. International student utilization data, obtained as part of standard care and quality improvement, was used from institutions including large and small campuses, community colleges, four-year institutions with undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as public and private institutions. All students seeking support for mental health issues through My SSP’s unique multilingual 24/7 chat, telephone, or video support were included in the study, which used a pre-post design to survey students who were not at risk before support was provided by a clinician and again at the end of the intervention.

In a survey including international student services, counseling and medical leadership, an international student services leader shared, “We had a Chinese student who was very reluctant to see a therapist on campus, use the program. He liked that if he panicked, he could text a counselor through My SSP and get support, even late at night.”

My SSP is available for 24/7 real-time and crisis support in English, Spanish, French, Mandarin and Cantonese (Simplified Chinese by chat), and by appointment for ongoing student support with a dedicated clinician in more than 150 languages including Korean, Arabic, and Hindi. Morneau Shepell’s global network allows for ongoing support to be offered in more than 160 countries. Students also have access to in-app resources, including self-directed content, evidence-based health screenings, virtual fitness, and links to campus resources.

Webinar and discussion
JED and Morneau Shepell invite the community to join a thoughtful discussion on Wednesday, August 12, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. ET during the webinar, “Supporting International Student Mental Health During Challenging Times.” JED will host Morneau Shepell and Sarah Lawrence College, which has implemented My SSP, to discuss the evolving student mental health landscape in relation to international students. The session will share study highlights, suggest resources and strategies to reduce barriers to support, encourage student success, and promote help-seeking behaviors. To register for the webinar, visit

About Morneau Shepell
Morneau Shepell is a leading provider of technology-enabled HR services that deliver an integrated approach to employee wellbeing through our cloud-based platform. Our focus is providing world-class solutions to our clients to support the mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing of their people. By improving lives, we improve business. Our approach spans services in employee and family assistance, health and wellness, recognition, pension and benefits administration, retirement consulting, actuarial and investment services. Morneau Shepell employs approximately 6,000 employees who work with some 24,000 client organizations that use our services in 162 countries. For more information, visit

About The Jed Foundation
JED is a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. We’re partnering with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention programs and systems. We’re equipping teens and young adults with the skills and knowledge to help themselves and each other. We’re encouraging community awareness, understanding and action for young adult mental health.

Learn more at Check out our programs including: JED Campus (, Set to Go (, ULifeline (, Half of Us (, Love is Louder (, and Seize the Awkward (


Heather MacDonald
Morneau Shepell

Keisha-Gaye Anderson
The Jed Foundation (JED)