It’s no secret that we’re currently in the middle of a global mental health crisis. According to the World Health Organization, around 450 million people are grappling with mental illnesses worldwide. Bermuda stands not as an oasis but an affected player in this troubling trend.
Recent figures from Employee Assistance Program Bermuda (EAP Bermuda) reveal an alarming 42% surge in the need for mental health support for Bermudian students aged 18-25, particularly those studying abroad. When combined with the American Psychological Association's revelation that 60% of U.S.-based college students fulfil criteria for a mental health condition, a dire situation emerges. The university years are a period of growth and self-discovery, but can be marked with isolation, stress, and undiscovered mental battles.
Parents are faced with unknowns: Have they adequately equipped their children for these challenges? How will their child’s mental health fare miles away from home?
According to EAP Bermuda Executive Director, Latisha Lister-Burgess, young people studying abroad face many challenges. Namely, students don’t have their usual support systems in place and have to adjust to being in a new culture and city, and making friends while navigating the demands of university. She added that spotting signs of mental strain in others isn't always straightforward. Far too many students internalise their battles, with fears of burdening others, compromising privacy, limited access to support, prohibitive costs, and insufficient self-awareness inhibiting them from seeking help.
“We tend to find that especially freshman year can be a time of high anxiety for people because all of a sudden everything is on them,” she said.
According to one joint study, researchers found a significant link between social media use and a deterioration in mental health among college students. As such, students on college campuses are also experiencing increased anxiety and depression.
The silver lining? The increasing array of support resources. At the forefront is TELUS Health: a valuable lifeline for Argus members and dependants studying abroad, aged 18-25. This free, confidential 24/7 support system, available as an app and hotline, connects students instantly to professional counsellors, complemented by self-help tools spanning mindfulness, nutrition, fitness and other proven, science-backed exercises to improve and maintain good mental health. Techniques such as journalling, walking, and regular communication can be transformative in ensuring mental well-being.
While on-campus resources remain pivotal, the private and convenient nature of phone-based support can't be understated. And organisations like The Family Centre and EAP Bermuda offer extensive support, both remote and in-person. EAP’s fully remote services allow students to easily access counsellors on their schedule. A 24-hour emergency line is also available for students undergoing a crisis.
That said, for students, home isn't just a physical place. It's an emotional haven. Parents still play a critical role in fostering an environment that invites open conversations, emotional expression, while alleviating stress.
“Moving abroad can be a difficult transition and parents can start by acknowledging with their kids that it may feel tough at times, but they always have support,” says Lister-Burgess “Many kids face the same issues, and we want them to know they’re not alone.”
I recommend setting up weekly calls by video chat so you can see your child’s face. If regular calls are not feasible, it’s important to ensure that your children have somebody they’re checking in with regularly. The goal is to keep the door for conversation always open.
Change is challenging, particularly in a new environment. Yet, with a strong support system and resources like TELUS Health, students do not have to face their battles in silence.
Discover the wealth of support available for you and your family at argus.bm/studentsupport.
Dr. Kim Panovka is a Medical Director with over 30 years of experience in healthcare. She started her career in Trauma, working both in hospital and pre-hospital; and worked as a flight doctor on both rotary (helicopter) and fixed wing evacuations, as well as commercial transfers. Dr. Panovka manages clients in Canada, the U.S. and the Caribbean, including Bermuda, Bahamas, Cayman, and Turks and Caicos.