International students are being pushed to the brink during the COVID-19 pandemic and rising pressures have led to an increase in deaths from suicide cases across Canada, according to a report by the non-profit organization One Voice Canada.
“It’s a cultural shock. “They come to Canada, it’s a completely different system, the social aspect, the education system is different,” Global News told One Voice Canada, co-founder and director of Agrihotri Immigration Consulting in Surrey.
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“Usually international students coming to Canada have no support. Some of them do, some of them do not. ”
The report highlights what it calls a worrying trend of suicide deaths across Canada due to a number of factors including “fraud and rampant corruption in the student recruitment industry”, high tuition fees and an “underground economy” “where students are working illegally and taking advantage of employers.
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“When exploitation happens, they have nowhere to go, nowhere to go, they have no choice,” Agrihotri said.
This is the tragic reality for 21-year-old Amrinder Singh who died of suicide last September, according to his friend Sukhpreet Singh.
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Sukhpreet started one GoFundWith fundraising to transport his friend’s body back to India and said Amrinder, who was an international student at Douglas College, was under great financial pressure and had no mental health support.
Dapinder Singh, now working at a Surrey Khalsa school, living his dream of becoming a teacher, says he was in a dark place as an international student last year, before taking the job.
“This Khalsa school is giving me new wings to fly again,” he told Global News.
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He says the pandemic hit him dangerously. Government financial aid was not available immediately, he was isolated, his mother was forced to cancel her planned visit from India and – overwhelmed by all – he said he missed an important deadline to apply for a permit work after his study permit expired which worsened his fight for mental health.
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“There came a time when I was thinking what is the purpose of my life? What am I doing here? ”
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Now Dapinder says he hopes his story will provide hope for others who are struggling. He said the key for him was to talk to people.
“International students here are like an army with one man because they carry a lot of things not in their bags, even just in their head here,” Dapinder said.
This is also what helped Gurkirat Singh, a UBC student who is now a crisis line volunteer. He was an international student last year and says without the support and guidance of his uncle who lives in Canada, things would have been very different for him.
“I think I would have ended up in a really terrible situation,” he said.
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“I came to Canada in 2015 and after 2015, we witnessed this trend that was escalating day by day because every two or three months there was a report of a suicide by an international student, so it was disturbing.”
The pandemic has pushed many students to the brink, he said, and he encourages anyone struggling with loneliness, high stress or anxiety to seek help.
“We do not receive enough calls from international students on the crisis line, so perhaps they are not aware of those crisis lines.”
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The BC Student Federation has long called for increased mental health support for all students, especially those who have come from abroad to study.
“Waiting times for on-campus counseling are already extremely long for local and international students, but international students often all have an international counselor,” said federation president Tanysha Klassen.
Klassen said the pandemic has helped shine a light on issues that have existed for years and are now at its peak.
One Voice Canada is calling on provincial and federal governments to conduct an international student program study between 2014 and 2020, adjust and reduce international student tuition fees, and increase funding and training for specialized camping services.
“We are concerned about the well-being of all students. I appreciate the report and recommendations shared by One Voice Canada, ”said Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training Anne Kang in a statement.
The statement went on to say “there have been years of rapid, uncontrolled growth in the number of international students under the former government which has created numerous challenges for international students”.
The province says it is working on a strategy to improve the education experience for international students
The Canadian government made some temporary changes to work permits to give students an extra 18 months to complete the work required during the pandemic, but lawyers say that is not enough.
The province has a new mental health service, called Here2Talk, for high school students who provide confidential services, free of charge in one session through an app, by phone or online chat. Available 24/7 and in many languages, including Punjabi.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of emergency, please call 911 for immediate assistance.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Pain, Child Help 1-800-668-6868 and Trans Lifeline 1-877-330-6366 all offer ways to get help if you, or someone you know, can suffer from mental health issues.
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© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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