Most recently, Linea spent a week in Kerala, India, observing a local community mental health team, which was coordinated through Linea’s mental health advocacy mentor.
“I had never been to a developing nation before, and I went in with my American mindset that perhaps there was something that I could teach them. Perhaps there was, but I learned so much from them.”
Studying or volunteering abroad can open not just new adventures and cultures to you, but lessons that give you new perspectives even after returning home. Appreciating the moment. Accepting new ways of doing things. Finding your personal drive or independence. These are all what exchange alumni living with mental health conditions say are ways they grew while abroad.
At a recent study abroad conference over 250 professionals chose to attend our panel session on mental health. Why was there so much interest?
People attended our session largely to find out how to avert or deal with a crisis. After we did our best to relieve some of their uncertainty and shared suggestions for improving the design and preparations of study abroad programs, we had a chance to end with this message:
For every student with a mental health-related disability who experiences a crisis abroad, many more will succeed.
Peer support is often underutilized but can be an effective safety net for many students learning to adjust and adapt to a new culture when studying abroad. Increasingly, study abroad programs are looking at ways to build in support systems and safety nets for all students, including training peers to support students with mental health conditions. Some programs focus on just 2 – 3 hours of a peer support curriculum while others offer 6-week programs that meet once per week prior to going abroad.
Women and girls with disabilities face double discrimination based on disability and gender. They are more likely to experience violence, abuse, and poor health than men with disabilities. They are less likely to have opportunities for education and employment, or access to critical services such as disaster aid or HIV&AIDS prevention programs.
If women and girls with disabilities are so vulnerable to human rights violations, why, then, are so many of them being excluded from the life-saving and life-enhancing development programs that exist in their communities?
Know what options exist or how to plan for health coverage while on an exchange program if you have pre-existing conditions or need ongoing medications and treatment while abroad.
By removing health insurance barriers, you can support diverse students to safely participate in your international exchange programs.With these options in place, it shouldn’t prevent qualified individuals from participating in exchanges and alleviate some of the difficult health cost issues that exchange staff and students need to deal with during the program.
Some international programs make it a policy to include a confidential health history and clearance form signed by a medical provider and/or an accommodation request form in the acceptance packet sent to each participant. These forms encourage the individual to talk with the medical provider about what is needed while on the program, and allows participants the option to disclose disability information and request accommodations they may require while abroad with the program staff.
Managing your mental health while studying abroad – whether or not you have a history of anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions – is something every person must think about when going abroad.
Being away from usual stress at home can sometimes be a relief when abroad; experiencing new adventures can be a useful distraction. You will also have times when you feel confused, uncomfortable, annoyed, and many of the same emotions that you manage in your daily life at home.
Welcome to the online A World Awaits You (AWAY) journal on people with disabilities traveling with a purpose.
This issue introduces you to people with non-apparent disabilities who have successfully gone on international exchanges and the strategies that were influential in their success.
To get started, click on the stories in our Table of Contents, or download the fully designed, accessible PDF Document to read or share. A text-only accessible Word Document can also be downloaded.
“If I expect the program to fully include me, then I need to provide them with as much information as possible," says Betsy Valnes, who has a brain injury and has participated in several overseas programs. "In my experience, people are more understanding about my need to excuse myself for a while if they know my reasons for fatigue."
Are you trending up or down with these changes that long-established education abroad programs are spearheading and other types of international exchanges could tap into?
Many factors contribute to the increased risk that people with disabilities experience for contracting HIV/AIDS, and to the fact that individuals with disabilities who also have HIV/AIDS often lack appropriate information and access to treatment. In turn, without appropriate teatment, HIV/AIDS can result in secondary disabilities. HIV/AIDS programmers should seek out training and resources to ensure their activities are disability-inclusive.
Plans offered to international exchange participants for less than a year of coverage are not fully licensed products so changes to U.S. health laws through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) do not apply. These plans can increase costs, have pre-existing condition exclusions, or deny enrollment to an individual based on health status.
You are not imagining it! The majority of disabled international students who arrive on U.S. campuses, and Americans with disabilities who study abroad, have non-apparent disabilities. Download this infographic to learn other characteristics and statistics about this population.