Expat mental health: how to prevent risks?

Expat mental health: how to prevent risks?

15 April 2022 Health

Two years ago, we shared with you an article on homesickness and its impact on stress specific to expatriates, without knowing that in 2022, the subject would be even more topical. Indeed, the Covid-19 crisis has particularly amplified this problem and led some governments to make mental health a pillar of their national strategy. Health insurance companies are taking the subject very seriously by offering psychological support solutions to their clients. A brief overview of the growing importance of expatriates’ mental health and its prevention.

Mental health problems specific to expatriates

Mental health problems when living abroad can take many forms and can be related to personal, professional or environmental stress factors. These can sometimes begin as early as the decision to move abroad. Faced with such a challenge, it is legitimate to apprehend this new life change.

According to the Swiss Medical Journal, there are three types of stress commonly encountered by expatriates abroad:

  • Basic stress, which corresponds to the disorientation and anxiety caused by a change of life and environment. It is therefore a very common, even natural stress, and fades away as the expatriate adapts to his new environment. If the individual has great difficulty adapting, a return to the country of origin should be considered to avoid excessive anxiety or depression.
  • Cumulative stress is, as the name suggests, prolonged stress resulting from an accumulation of frustrating situations and waiting without the possibility of intervening or stepping back. It is also often linked to a heavy workload.
  • Traumatic stress is much more violent and brutal, and is associated with events such as conflict or war situations, natural disasters, accidents, etc. If the traumatic stress persists for a long time after the event (more than a month), the expatriate suffers from post-traumatic syndrome and must be treated. Foyer Global Health provides advice if you are an expat in a country in crisis.

Added to this stress are homesickness, isolation and distance from family and friends. These problems can sometimes be compensated by a better work-life balance. Taking time for oneself outside of work can help to understand the causes of one’s malaise.


Recourse to health care is often postponed

Among expatriates, it is often noted that recourse to care related to mental health is postponed. Indeed, the symptoms are generally minimised, in the belief that the stress felt is only temporary. Also, the cost of psychological care can lead some expatriates to refrain from seeking it and to prefer self-medication.

Moreover, requesting psychological care is not always easy, especially if you are not familiar with the local health system. The administrative procedures for care and social protection, the language barrier, the lack of trust in medical staff and the lack of information make some people reluctant to seek mental health care.

Medical expertise solutions for expatriates

Preventing rather than curing

Today, the prevention of psychosocial risks among expatriates has become a particular challenge, especially for companies. The health crisis has caused many expatriate employees to experience a significant mental burden that can have a direct impact on their health. Some companies have implemented solutions to facilitate exchange and communication with their employees, such as video-conference discussions, or online activities to entertain and bring teams closer together despite the distance. The aim of these initiatives is to reduce the risk of burnout and depression in the face of the demands of the new life.

The role of international health insurance for expatriates

Are expatriates covered by their health insurance when they experience mental health problems? Today’s health insurer should not only cover psychological counselling, but more importantly accompany its clients in their expatriation and ensure their psychological well-being.

This is made possible through online consultations, as telemedicine allows. The advantages of these consultations are that they can be carried out without geographical constraints, with flexibility in the choice of times (available 24/7) and in the language you prefer. It is always easier to talk about your feelings in your mother tongue.

At Foyer Global Health, we understand the psychological issues of our clients. Our expatriate health insurance covers psychological consultations and psychotherapy under written agreement. Already, nearly 10,000 of our clients have access to remote psychological support through their insurance policy. To choose the most suitable insurance policy for your psychological care needs, or to learn more about our plans, contact our experts at any time!

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