If you are reading this, chances are, you’re a foreigner living in Wuhan (or my Mum and Dad…hi guys!), so it will be no surprise that moving to another country where you don’t speak the language, or have a clear understanding of the culture can be incredibly daunting and taxing both physically and mentally.
If you’re anything like me, you would have spent the months leading up to your move researching ‘things you should know when moving to China’, and you would have learnt some truly terrifying things, like: you’ll be pointed at and photographed more than the Kardashians, and you’ll be scammed by everyone who crosses your path (trust no one)! But the most devastating thing that you’ll learn is, you have to say goodbye to cheese – that creamy goodness will never cross your lips again! It’s ok though; once you are here, you quickly learn that these things are usually greatly exaggerated, or are just not true!
That’s not to say that living in Wuhan isn’t challenging – it is and the culture shock can be extreme. It can be tough doing even the most simple tasks, like buying milk, topping up your phone credit or even just buying a travel card. The seemingly little things that you can easily source at home suddenly become much harder when you arrive here. You’re removed from your support networks and small difficulties pile up and build to be so great that they eventually take their toll and can lead to feelings of isolation, helplessness, anxiety and depression.
Mental health can be a bit of a taboo topic – it’s something that has only come to the fore of discourse in recent years. I’m from Australia and we’re still trying to muddle our way around the conversation, but I guess at least it’s a conversation that is being had. There can be a stigma associated with mental health issues or even just the acknowledgement that your mental state is something that has health, but it is and it does. Many of us have come from cultures where it’s okay to seek help when you are not coping, but to many others the idea can be just as foreign as the country in which we now live. Even when we do realise that we need help, asking for it, and even finding that help in Wuhan can exacerbate whatever stress it is you are already feeling. Relax, we’re here to help…and you didn’t even have to ask.
In 2016 Wuhan Social published an article by Sofya about seeking psychological help in Wuhan http://wuhansocial.com/when-living-in-china-is-not-a-picnic-arts-in-psychotherapy/. Sofya’s article featured Arts in Psychotherapy who are based in Hong Kong. They are a team of English speaking professional psychologists who offer a wide range of psychological services by appointment via Skype or phone to anyone in Mainland China. They are accessible, and quick to respond with enquiries. Their prices vary depending on the services you require.
You can visit their website for more information:
Website: https://artsinpsychotherapy.weebly.com/, or
As you know, though, this is “Wuhan, different every day!”, which means that there have been a few developments since 2016.
You probably already know that, Hanyang is home to Wuhan Union Hospital International Clinic, but did you know that every Friday morning an English speaking psychiatrist who trained in America consults? He accepts patients of any age and his fee is 500 RMB per consultation.
The staff speak English so if you’d like to make an appointment or require further information you can contact them:
While these two options are wonderful, they may not be realistic options financially for a large percentage of one of Wuhan’s most at risk foreign groups: international students. Let’s face it, money is tight when you’re a student! Wuhan is an education Mecca, and every year it welcomes thousands of foreign students from all over the world with their fresh new books and their laptops fully charged, ready to embark on a gruelling yet rewarding journey for a higher education.
However, some foreign students are extremely vulnerable to the stressors associated with living and studying abroad. These might include, amongst other things: the fact that it is perhaps the first time they’ve lived away from their family home; the financial burdens they find themselves under; feelings of isolation; academic performance anxieties; difficulties coping with the language barrier, etc. Let’s not forget the fact that some of them are still teenagers, perhaps not yet fully equipped to deal with these challenges and the accumulative stress.
It can be incredibly hard to acknowledge to yourself that you need help, let alone to anyone else. Once someone has admitted to themselves that they do need help, it can be difficult to figure out who to go to for that help. Their family and close friends are in another country, and they may not want to speak to their friends here about it.
Sometimes it can help to speak to someone objective – someone who is there specifically to listen to you and can help figure out some strategies to deal with whatever situation you might find yourself in – and sometimes it helps if that someone is faceless. This is where Lifeline Shanghai is invaluable. Lifeline Shanghai is a great way to anonymously reach out and seek help.
They are open 10am-10pm 365 days a year and you can speak with their trained volunteers via Live Chat, or you can contact them by phone: 021-6279-8990.
We are still left, however, without any solid programs put in place by the universities themselves that provide a real support system for the thousands of foreign students residing in Wuhan; until now. Following another difficult year for foreign students, around final exam time it became blatantly obvious that there were many students in crises. After witnessing the resulting escalations, Mira (herself an international student & EMT) suggested that all the students get first aid training.
Mira realised that while this was a good idea, she recognised that “the truth is first aid is an afterthought, it’s what you do after an incident happens”. Mira spoke to other international students and discovered that many of them were struggling, so she approached Central China Normal University with a proposal to start a volunteer counselling program for international students. CCNU were fully supportive of this idea; and so Wuhan International Counselling Service (WISCS) was born.
Mira (Director and Administrator), along with Jack (head counsellor and consultant) and Chris (counsellor and administrator) were then able to set up the program. They have managed to recruit a further three volunteers, which means that the service now offers five English speaking counsellors as well as Chinese Mandarin, Japanese and Shona. WISCS officially opened its doors in January this year, and the response was overwhelming. Jack received 10 enquiries within the first two hours, and the notice advertising the service was shared more than 800 times within the first few hours of its release!
WISCS is the first service of it’s kind in Wuhan. It is an independent volunteer program that is currently based at CCNU and at this stage is only available to CCNU students. The goal for WISCS is to open centres at every university so that all foreign students can have access to this kind of support. For this to happen, they need the support of the universities themselves; volunteers who want to help people and can put in time to realise this goal; and of course money, for while WISCS is a volunteer program, it still incurs costs.
WISCS has opened a Walk-in-Centre, in teaching building 209 on the CCNU campus.
From Monday the 26th of March, CCNU students will be able to visit the walk-in-centre Monday to Thursday 5pm-8pm, and Saturday and Sunday 4pm-8pm. After the initial consultation at the walk-in-centre, ongoing counselling sessions can be organised and each session runs for an hour and will cost 25 RMB per session (all of which goes to WISCS) except for sessions with Jack which will cost 50 RMB per session.
You can also just contact WISCS to book a session at a time that suits you. If you would like more information, want to book a session, or are interested in volunteering, you can contact WISCS:
WeChat: WISCS-Official, or
Phone: (+86) 15623305018
It’s a start, a great start, a long overdue start, but a start nonetheless.
All tips from “Tip The Author” for will be donated to WISCS