Can UK’s Ban on Family Members Affect International Students’ Mental Health?

United Kingdom Europe Higher Education News International Studies by Erudera News Jun 26, 2023

United Kingdom

The decision of the UK government to prohibit international students from bringing their family members to the country starting in January 2024 could trigger negative feelings among families due to separation.

According to psychologist Philip Dimka, separation can cause stress and anxiety because there is a belief that people adjust to new environments better when they are close to their loved ones, Erudera.com reports.

“There is a tendency for you to adjust more to a new environment when you are with your family, but when you are separated, you are likely to develop stress and anxiety,” Dimka told The Guardian.

A survey by Friends International, a non-governmental UK-based organization, found that one in four international students in the UK and Ireland experience different mental health issues. The results showed that anxiety, depression, and eating disorders are among the key issues reported by students.

“Separated from friends and family and deprived of the social and hospitality events that Friends International routinely organise, international students were especially vulnerable to dips in their mental health and wellbeing,” the report by Friends International points out.

Commenting on the survey results published on August 23, 2021, Mike Hill, Centre Leader at Friends International Birmingham, said that an increasing number of international students have been refusing to leave their accommodation due to feelings of anxiety and depression.

Another study found that international postgraduate students had higher rates of depression, anxiety, stress, and suicidal thoughts than the UK population, and only a low percentage of them sought help. The study was conducted by authors from the University of Birmingham, King’s College London, and Imperial College London and was published on ResearchGate.

The decision to change policies on international students’ families came in a bid to reduce net migration and was announced days before the release of migration figures by the UK Home Office, which were projected to show net migration reached 700,000 migrants for the year 2022/23.

Additionally, authorities said that international students will no longer be able to switch from the student visa route to a work visa unless they have completed their studies.

Following the announcement, Braverman said that it’s time to make sure migration numbers will be reduced and meet the government’s promise to cut net migration.

Among the country’s politicians, Scottish MP Carol Monaghan has been the most critical of the new rules, highlighting the huge contribution that international students make to UK’s economy, which amounted to £40 billion in 2022.

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