A report called The Mental Health Status of Expatriate Versus US Domestic Workers shows that 50% of the expats that participated in the study are at high risk of mental health problems.
Expats experience twice as many mental health issues as domestic citizens, with anxiety and depression being the common ones, according to the study.
In some cases when depression becomes so severe, expats may feel that returning home is their only option.Expats who have trouble with anxiety stop undertaking activities that they usually enjoy, because it does not give them pleasure anymore. Instead, they stay at home and worry.
Where do the problems come from?
Two factors that contribute to mental health issues are homesickness and social isolation. Expats can experience a lack of support and find it harder to deal with new circumstances, because their relatives and close friends are back home.
The reasons why people emigrate to a new country also play a big role in the feelings they have towards their new surroundings. Expats that are running away from something back home experience less symptoms, this includes people who were looking for a new adventure or who did not feel at home in their own country.
Expats who did not have a choice, for example children or partners, are more prone to mental health issues. Children in the adolescence stage find it difficult to get used to a new country. This period in their life is already difficult, so adding a whole new environment to the mix makes everything even more complicated.
Difficulties with finding professional help
The UK’s prime minister, David Cameron, called for action yesterday after research showed major deficits in the mental health care system. The report, published by National Health Services England, states that thousands of deaths could have been avoided if mental health care was adequate and well funded. 1 in 4 people experience symptoms every year, and the worst part is that three-quarters of them do not receive any help. The government agrees that measures have to be taken, and will be assigning an additional 1 billion pounds per year to the system by 2020.
Ease of access to mental health services is crucial, and for many, especially those living in underdeveloped countries, may not be able to locate someone that can help them in desperate times..
Another problem expats are likely to run into, while looking for a therapist, are language barriers. It is important that patients can talk about their problems in their mother tongue. It can be difficult to find a therapist that speaks your own language fluently, but this is critical for the therapy to be most helpful. It is a good idea to check the presence and quality of the mental health system of a country before immigrating.
Notice any symptoms that might indicate depression or anxiety in a fellow expatriate, or are you experiencing them yourself? Talk to someone about it! This might make you or them feel less alone.