Students are increasingly suffering from mental health issues that may worsen when studying abroad, says a new whitepaper by Chubb Accident & Health and International SOS released Feb. 20.

The paper looks at key considerations in managing mental health risks for students traveling and studying abroad, and what academic institutions should look for when choosing insurance coverage and assistance programs.

Duty of Care obligation

"Colleges and universities have a 'Duty of Care' obligation to assume responsibility in protecting their students from foreseeable health and security risks when students study abroad on school-sponsored or contracted programs," said Dean Hoski, assistant vice president, Chubb North America Accident & Health Division

Coverage gaps

"To address health risks while students are overseas and to reduce legal and financial exposure, many schools purchase emergency travel assistance services and accident & health insurance. Such purchases are important as many domestic health insurance policies do not respond to risks associated with foreign travel, which may result in coverage gaps," he added.

Hoski co-authored the paper with Robert L. Quigley, MD, D.Phil., professor of Surgery, senior vice president and regional medical director, Americas Region at International SOS. "Many educational institutions are not equipped or even aware of how to provide access to mental health services to their students traveling abroad," said Quigley. "Thus, it is critical for colleges and universities to partner with medical and travel security assistance providers as well as insurance companies with scholastic travel expertise to help manage the risks associated with students experiencing mental health challenges while traveling."

Vital insurance coverages

The paper recommends that educational institutions establish Duty of Care policies and procedures, develop incident response plans and procedures, and develop a comprehensive travel program, which includes purchasing vital insurance coverages.