Could we have prevented Zhikai Liu’s suicide?

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

“Struggling to understand his classes, Zhikai Liu took his own life.”

When I read that article, my heart sank. This is the side of international education which many do not see.

Author: Wendy Huang (iDibs Mental Health Buddy)
Special thanks: ISANA and Hao Teo

 

To many internationals in Australia, coming here is a new start. We come here for more than just the education, we yearn for experiences of road-trips to the Great Ocean Road, brunch in the most liveable city, award-winning coffees and the international student experience we can’t get in our home countries.

For me, it was all that with a slight twist, I came to Australia with false hope. A hope that my long-distance relationship of a year had the hope to be rekindled. However after I arrived I learned that worse than the fact that it had ended, he confessed to me that during the course of our relationship, he cheated on me.

That news hit me harder than a punch to the stomach. I did not expect to be spending the first few weeks in Australia just bawling my eyes out and wishing I never made the decision to come to Australia. For months I couldn't help myself from breaking down when I was alone. I didn't know who I could talk to because I was so afraid of being judged and ridiculed for coming here on the basis of this relationship.

Since I was young, I was always taught to find solutions, so after feeling ashamed and isolated for weeks without any sign of recovery, I eventually reached out to the counselling services on campus for help.

I consider myself to be very fortunate as I could explain my situation rather well in English and my counsellor was very helpful in guiding me out of that traumatic experience. My study in social work and mental health enabled me to better combat all the negative emotions stirring up in me.

Upon deeper reflection, that begs the question, what about other international students, like Zhikai Liu, who face huge adversity in their lives? Would they talk to someone if they're not coping well? Would they know where to go to seek help? How effective are counselling services if there is a language barrier which hinders the expression of complex emotions?

I recall an impactful seminar where we were asked to map our personal social support systems. Appallingly, I found that as an international student, there was hardly any structure. When I faced difficulties, my first thought would be to refrain from telling my close family and friends who are far away, as I did not want to worry them with my issues. I was also not aware of the resources available to internationals and I did not expect to be eligible to apply for any welfare offered because I'm not a citizen of Australia.

My first go-to was my Overseas Student Health Cover but it’s often confusing what I can get reimbursement for. I would be too afraid to ask my parents for financial support if I need to pay upfront for seeing a mental health professional. 
In my head, they would say: ”Why waste money to talk a stranger, talk to me instead!”

Counselling services on campus are only free for limited sessions and it is often difficult to find a counsellor who speaks languages other than English. Mainstream community services also did not seem to cater to other languages. It just seemed like an international student with both limited financial resources and social network, I felt that I would be left to my own devices if anything happens to me.

I decided to take it as my personal mission to uncover the resources available to support the mental health of international students, because I know I am not alone in this. It is my hope that these resources can be shared with others for their benefit. At the very least, I can make a dent in this taboo issue.

I asked myself, if ZhiKai was still alive today, what would I tell him and what resources were available that may be able to save not only his, but the other 27 other international students who tragically took their lives in Australia between 2009 and 2015.

3 steps: 
Observe
Listen
Recommend

The first step would be to observe if he seems particularly upset over a period of time or if he is missing out on classes or social events which he would usually go to. Secondly, I would want to check in with him once a week and ask him “How are you feeling?”, and listen to him patiently without judgement. Lastly, if I feel I am not equipped to handle the case, I would encourage him to seek appropriate professional help and share with him about the supportive professionals in the community like GPs, psychologists and social workers who are willing to assist international students and reassure him about the costs.

There is a wide range of resources available for students combating mental health issues, the limitation lies in the awareness of such support facilities. I have been lucky to have interned with ISANA Vic/Tas who have been working towards compiling a database of such services to be made available for the international student community. Through our joint collaboration, we have identified multiple avenues that students could approach for support and advice. It is our hope that through the spread of these services, we could normalise the subject of mental health and extend our outreach to those who truly need them.

I have attached some links below which pertains directly to resources available to international students. Thank you for reading thus far, I would urge you to share this with at least one person who you think will benefit from this. If you yourself are going through difficulties, I sincerely wish you the strength to persevere and I trust the resources below will assist you in the journey back on the track of happiness!

Author: Wendy Huang (iDibs Mental Health Buddy)

 Suicide and Crisis Support

Lifeline Australia 
Phone:13 11 14 (24 hours, 7 days a week)
Website: https://www.lifeline.org.au/
Online Chat: https://www.lifeline.org.au/Get-Help/Online-Services/crisis-chat 
(7pm - 4am, 7 days)

Multilingual services
Australian Vietnamese Women's Association {Vietnamese}
Phone Number: (03) 9428 9078 (Richmond Office)/(03) 9396 1922 (Braybrook office)
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: https://www.avwa.org.au/
Centre for Holistic Health {Mandarin, Cantonese}
Phone Number: +61 03 88067532/0404 598 242/0401 718 043 (available in Mandarin and Cantonese)
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: www.chh.org.au
Wechat: Chh_enquiry
Chinese Service Centre (Melbourne), Federation of Chinese Associations (Vic.) {Mandarin, Cantonese}
Phone Number: 03 9650 6468
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Griefline {Chinese and Japanese counselling services available}
Phone: 03 9935 7400 (National and Metro Melbourne)
1300 845 745 (National – landline only)
03 9028 7951 (for Chinese service)
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Online Chat: https://griefline.org.au/online-counselling-service/
Inner Eastern Psychology {Cantonese, Hokkien, Indonesian and Mandarin}
Phone: 0434 995 288
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Website: https://www.innereasternpsychology.com.au/
简单心理 {Mandarin, online counselling only}
https://www.jiandanxinli.com/
Melbourne Affordable Psychology {English, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Gujarati, Spanish}
Phone Number: 0455 850 064
Website: http://melbourneaffordablepsychology.org.au/
Refuge of Hope {Spanish, Portuguese}
Phone Number: 0415-244-437
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: http://www.refugeofhope.org.au/
The Talk Shop {Creole, French, Hindi, Hungarian, Mandarin, Punjabi, Sinhala, Spanish and Urdu}
Phone Number: 1300 224 665
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: https://www.thetalkshop.com.au/
Wavecare Counselling {Arabic, Hindi, Telugu, Mandarin, Cantonese}
Phone Number: 9560 6722/9560 6861
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: https://www.wavecare.org.au/

General services
Universities’ counselling services
RMIT University
Monash University
University of Melbourne
La Trobe University
Victoria University
Swinburne University
Deakin University


Study Melbourne {Interpreters Available}
Students can get advice from a case manager by dropping in between 1pm - 3pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or call 1800 056 449 between 9am - 5pm, Monday - Friday

Headspace {Interpreters Available}
Phone: 1800 650 890
Link: https://headspace.org.au/
Online Chat: https://eheadspace.org.au/


Seeing a GP and psychologist
OSHC and seeking help from a psychologist


How to find a counsellor/psychologist 
https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/counselling
https://www.psychology.org.au/Find-a-Psychologist

Translating and Interpreting Service
Phone: 131 450
Link: https://www.tisnational.gov.au/


Self-help resources
Beyondblue
beyondblue.org.au
Reach Out
http://reachout.com.au
myCompass
https://www.mycompass.org.au/


Helping a friend? 
Mental Health First Aid course {available for free at some universities}
https://mhfa.com.au/take-course
The Check-in app
https://www.beyondblue.org.au/about-us/about-our-work/youthbeyondblue/the-check-in-app

Want to be the FIRST to hear about new services?

Subscribe and we will keep you updated on the waves iDibs makes!

Become an iDibber!

Sign up now to be in the draw for up to $2,500 of gifts and prizes! Its FREE anyway! Limited period till 11 March 2019.

Register, then log in to see details of this fantastic prize pack!

 

Register Now!