COGS to aid int’l student mental health

Brian Edwards

Juggling a foreign culture, schoolwork and a social life can be a difficult task for some international students, student leaders say.
The University of Minnesota’s Council of Graduate Students is planning to work with student groups and services this school year to boost mental health support for international students who are trying to adjust to life in Minnesota.
Alisa Eland, associate director for counseling and advising at International Student and Scholar Services, said many international students struggle with being away from home. 
ISSS already offers multiple services for international students, ranging from individual counseling to student support groups to help students overcome these issues, Eland said.
She said the support groups allow students to connect with others who are having similar experiences.
“That is a really great place for students to connect with each other in a structured and safe environment and also explore things like cultural adjustment,” Eland said.
Even with the services in place, some international students can still have a hard time connecting with other students on campus, said Nicholas Goldsmith, president of COGS.
Feelings of isolation and other mental health issues were brought up last month while the group planned its platform for the year, he said.
Goldsmith said COGS plans to address those issues by advocating for improved support groups.
“When you are making these transitions, you don’t always know what to ask,” Goldsmith said. “But having a mechanism to understand what to ask can help.”
Gary Christenson, a psychiatrist and Boynton Health Service’s chief medical officer, said the University is always working to add new programs and services to boost all students’ mental health.
The 2013 Minnesota College Student Health Survey Report said growing diversity in the country’s student population means schools are experiencing an increased variety of mental health challenges. 
Interpersonal issues, life transition, gender issues and stress were some of the problems specifically mentioned in the report. 
Christenson said services for students range from standard therapy to more unconventional programs like the PAWS program and allow students a chance to choose the
service that best works for them.
Christenson said the school hosted a mental health forum with more than 20 different departments, which presented an opportunity for the departments to give feedback
about their students’ needs as well as discuss possible policy changes.
He said Boynton is usually receptive to new mental health initiatives. 
“We believe there is wisdom of the community, and we are always looking for new, creative approaches,” Christenson said.