Managing pre-existing mental health issues as an expat


May 2023 
Life as an expat can bring so many rewarding and positive experiences. The opportunity to live and work abroad is often a lifelong dream for many. But after the initial excitement starts to fade, and your new life becomes the norm, challenges with mental and emotional health can start to surface - especially for expats who might be dealing with any pre-existing issues. 
Studies show that mental health challenges are on the rise worldwide, with one in every eight individuals worldwide living with a pre-existing mental health challenge. With these statistics, it’s no surprise that many expats are already dealing with pre-existing mental health issues before moving overseas.
Living with pre-existing mental health issues should not discourage you from moving abroad. As long as you are proactive in looking after yourself, there is no reason why you can’t have an amazing expat experience. To help you do this, we have prepared some simple steps for expats with pre-existing mental health issues. 

Isolation is one of the biggest contributing factors for expats struggling with their mental health. Recent research has found that 48% of expats reported the loss of a support network as their biggest cause of stress. Having a strong network can completely change your expat experience.  

Take time to mix with locals and other expats. Try joining an expat networking group or taking up new hobbies that allow you to mix with others. Building meaningful friendships will enrich your life, and help you avoid feeling isolated abroad.

When your body is physically drained, your mental health is directly impacted. Nourishing your body with nutrient-rich food and plenty of exercise can really do wonders for your mental health. Even with a busy schedule, you should strive to make time for looking after your body. It can be as simple as a walk around your new town or joining a local sports club. 
We all have ways of looking after ourselves. If you have a pre-existing condition that requires you to take time off work, take medication, or practice mindfulness, then make time for this. Your habits and routines back home for managing your pre-existing mental health issues will still be just as important in your new destination. 
Spending more time inside and online can negatively affect your mental health. It’s called doom-scrolling for a reason. Studies have found spending mindless amounts of time online scrolling through social media can cause individuals to feel more isolated, and insecure and increase symptoms of depression. Get out of the house and avoid spending all your free time on your phone. Making new friends locally will help you settle easier and have a positive effect on your mental health.
We can’t stress the importance of having the right insurance cover in place. Everyone’s circumstances are different so no policy is the same. Going abroad without an adequate level of cover in place can leave you in a very vulnerable position should anything ever happen. When moving abroad with pre-existing conditions, you will need to support your health and finances with the right level of cover.

The World Health Organisation has recognised the lack of resources when it comes to managing mental health issues worldwide. They have stated that: “The gap between the need for treatment and its provision is wide all over the world; and is often poor in quality when delivered”. 

This lack of resources makes it even more important that you know when and how to seek out extra support. There is no shame in asking for help especially when it comes to your health.   

At Allianz Partners, we are experienced in helping expats navigate their new life. This is why our Expat Assistance Programme allows you to speak to a professional offering multilingual and confidential support for mental, financial, physical, and emotional well-being. Helping you plan for the future with support available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.