Growing Suicide among Nepali Students in Australia

Published On: April 24, 2023 08:30 AM NPT By: Dr Shishir Bhatta

Dr Shishir Bhatta

Dr Shishir Bhatta

The author is a researcher and a registered dental surgeon in Nepal. Currently, he is pursuing his Masters of Social Work in Western Sydney University, Australia.

Australia has always remained the top notch academic destination for Nepali students. As articulated by the Australian Government Department of Education, 43,282 Nepali students are studying Australian courses for January 2023 session compared to 57,182 students for January-December 2022. Nepal has been consistently in the third position as a 'student bank to Australia' after China and India. The dreamland of Australia has helped countless of Nepali students assimilate enormous skills, vision and fortune but a significant number of students are ending their life to tragic suicide.

According to the Embassy of Nepal, Canberra, Australia, there is a progressive rise in the number of students committing suicide every year. There are a myriad of factors compelling the immigrant students to opt for self-immolation. The sense of being alone and isolated in a foreign land is the major culprit to be blamed. Moreover, altered social roles and responsibilities, degraded socioeconomic status, workplace bullying and social marginalization in the foreign land have their definitive roles. As immigrants, students develop stress in an attempt to incorporate the foreign customs and establish new social connections while clinging to their native culture. This creates an unfavorable shift in the equilibrium of their personal and social life. Therefore, the 'cultural shock' they experience acts as a trigger for anxiety and emotional distress.

 Explicitly in terms of Nepalese students, the dual financial pressure imposed on them to pay college/university fees in Australia and the debt along with the interest which was loaned during the visa application process back in Nepal have a supporting ground in building a stressful economic life. Additionally, lack of skills in performing the routine practical chores like cooking, cleaning and budgeting the expenses is an overlooked factor provoking mental trauma. This is highly pertinent in students from those families where parents act as a sole anchor for homemaking.

As a matter of fact, the Nepali students and their guardians have unrealistic expectations about Australian life. Many students get allured of the pompous western life simply on the grounds of fancy social media posts and pictures and plump for overseas study. This decision made without a reality check turns futile with time and the students enmesh with depression. Rubbing salt into the wound, many of these young boys and girls indulge in substance abuse like alcoholism, smoking and use of illicit drugs, while some of them start gambling with a pipe dream of becoming a millionaire overnight. Correspondingly, their immature effort to overcome the arduous situation produces a boomerang effect where they lose little of the money they have and eventually turn insolvent. As a consequence, students suffer from severe mental and physical health hazards and choose to end their precious life as the ultimate solution to the mess.

It is clearly evidenced that the suicidal issue in Australia is multifaceted, so a holistic approach from the family, society and the individual themselves is crucial in its mitigation. Research in the ground reality of Australian life as an overseas student is the key. To put it the other way, students and educational consultancies should have a healthy interaction about multiple dimensions of overseas study disregarding the financial benefits of the service provider. Effective orientation lectures on ways to seek support during emotional distress is a must. It is unfortunate to mention that Nepali students face a considerable barrier in seeking mental health services due to social and cultural stigmas related to mental health and insignificant mental health literacy. There are a number of free services run by Australian government like Lifeline, Kids Helpline, Beyond Blue, Mental Health Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team and many others actively working in suicide prevention. Parents pose a significant role in assisting their children prevail over these hornets' nests. Guardians' should develop an alternative support strategy to help their child if they face a financial crisis in the course of their studies. Moreover, the parents should establish a warm relationship with their children and discuss openly about the hardships they face routinely in the foreign land. Family members, friends and colleagues should erase their delusion and stop considering Australia as a land to mint unlimited dollars because a student in foreign land is bound to legal obligations regarding work and income. It is imperative for them to reconsider their unrealistic expectations of expensive gifts like laptops, phones and other electronic gadgets which disturb the students' financial ecosystem. Needless to say, together we can fight against the suicidal catastrophe and create a happy and healthy academic environment for Nepalis in Australia.

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