As expats, we face many challenges when dealing with life. We live in different countries, face culture shock and language barriers, and can suffer from loneliness, depression and other mental illnesses far more significant than if expats had just stayed at home.
The Pandemic has seen a stark rise in expats coming forward, stating that they feel depressed or anxious or an overall decline in their mental health since Covid-19.
“Studies estimate that American expatriates have assignment failure rates as high as 40 per cent, which often results from stress caused by cultural difference and demanding workloads,” says David Sharar, Ph.D, Managing Director of Chestnut Global Partners, the company that co-conducted the research.
Yet, there is a debate when reaching out for mental health services. Do you find someone from your native cultural background and upbringing, or are you, as an expat looking for someone out with your origin of culture, sparking the post cultural components of getting counselling.
It can be tricky as there are underlying cultural imprints in a person's make-up that some therapists may not understand as the barriers are high. And also, as an expat, you have lived a full life out-with the constraints of home and the culture that you were born into, experienced and immersed in new, foreign cultures and had different experiences therefore, mental health services from your home background may be debilitating and backwards and can stifle your growth to better mental health.
For expats living foreign lands "There are three barriers – the language, the culture and the mental state – to overcome. Many people give up seeking help at the start, believing it is not available for foreigners or they won't receive the treatment that would suit them," he says.
But the truth is that many countries have mental health services available. Many major towns and cities offer counselling and mental health support.
Her Expat Life has top tips for accessing mental health services as an expat:
1: Do your research and obtain International Health Insurance. Often, your health insurer will have a list of vetted, reputable psychologists on their list that you can access. Speak with them frequently about their policies and what they cover in mental health services.
2: Stay connected to your loved ones and people in your new/existing country. It can be complex, and maintaining good relationships while living the expat life can be challenging as you live a different life from people back home. Online platforms have made it easier than ever to stay in touch, and you can also access online therapy from anywhere in the world.
3: Do your research and talk within expat forums. Get a referral from a friend or loved one. Sometimes someone from the expat community may know of an excellent licensed therapist that they have used or someone has used before.
4: Pinpoint exactly what you are dealing with and what you need help with as you can find specific therapists trained for your primary concern. e.g., Grief Counselling.
5: Speak to a doctor in your town or city; they may have a system or list of mental health practitioners and may be able to diagnose and prescribe medication to alleviate immediate mental distress.
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