Coroner recommends more support for international students after 27 suicides in six years

The Victorian Coroner has found international students were less likely to seek help for mental health issues. Source: Getty Images

A Victorian coroner says international students need encouragement to use mental health services following 27 suicides between 2009 and 2015.

Struggling with a language barrier and battling insomnia, Chinese national and Melbourne university student Zhikai Liu ended his life in March 2016.

Sadly, his story is not that rare and a Victorian coroner has found improved strategies are needed to encourage at-risk students to seek help.

Coroner Audrey Jamieson's investigation into the 24-year-old's death found 26 other international students also killed themselves between 2009 and 2015 - although that number is likely to be an underestimate.

The Coroners Prevention Unit compared the circumstances of the 27 international student suicides with a cohort of suicides among Australian-born students and found there was a lower number of diagnosed mental illness in those born overseas.

It also found only 22 per cent of those international students saw someone about their mental health within the six weeks of their death.

Lecture theatre. Faculty of Engineering + Information Technology, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia. Architect: Denton Corker Marshall LLP, 2014.
The Victorian Coroner recommended the Department of Education work with education providers to help internationals students seek mental health support.

In contrast, 57 per cent of Australian-born students sought help in the same period.

Ms Jamieson found that despite the absence of a suicide note, Mr Liu exhibited signs of undiagnosed and untreated mental ill-health after relocating to Australia to study in November 2015.

She ruled his death as suicide.

She recommended the Department of Education and Training work with Victorian education providers to identify strategies to help vulnerable international students seek mental health support.

She also called for the national code for international students be changed to include a requirement that universities and TAFE's alert the coroner to any deaths of international students.

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