The loss of orientation can exhaust the expatriate, who must constantly adapt, the loss of habits can even lead to a loss of self-confidence, and he can also feel lonely, far from everything and from his country. Mental health can therefore take a hit when everything doesn’t turn out like the dream we had imagined.
And the pandemic has not helped: expatriates separated from their spouse or family due to border closures, uncertainty and fear due to the situation, confinement and no more social interaction or activities…
Therefore, it is important to be able to take care of your mental health abroad. But since this is not always obvious in a country whose language and culture you are discovering, here are some ideas.
Before leaving, prepare as best you can, so you know what to expect and avoid too much culture shock. For example, you can read books about expatriation, such as Succeed in your life as an expatriate, by Magdalena Zilveti Chaland, or listen to testimonials from expats through podcasts like French Expat or Expat Heroes. You can also find out as much as possible about your future country of expatriation on the Internet or through country guides, and even contact and chat with expats currently there through social networks: for example, Facebook pages “ French in India” or “French men and women in Buenos Aires”.
Once there, Join a support group with expats facing the same issues and difficulties as you. Still on Facebook, the page “Expats nanas: separated, divorced”, a support group among expat women. There are also many groups at the local level: check with your embassy or consulate! You can also find all the French host associations in the Fiafe network worldwide on the interactive map on their site.
try create habits and above all find the ones you had in France, so as not to feel too out of date. This can happen through a sport that you have practiced and that you can take up again abroad, some good meals that you like, a routine with your loved ones with recurring video calls… The more reassuring references you have in the early stages, the better. !
If you feel the need, don’t hesitate to consult a professional. The PsyExpat network brings together French-speaking professionals (psychologist, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, etc.) who work abroad. The directory is available online for free. Thanks to an interactive map, you can find the French-speaking psychiatrists around you, the details of their specialty and their contact details.
The Eutelmed platform also brings together more than 200 health professionals (not just psychologists), for appointments in more than 50 languages, wherever you are.
Of course, following therapy has a cost, which is not always accessible to everyone. Before leaving, check with your international insurance to find out what it covers in terms of mental health. Fortunately, some countries offer free listening services with a professional (but often not French-speaking). This is the case in the UK, for example, where you can access free therapy with the National Health Service, the local public health system.
You can also talk to a doctor about it, and if you prefer to talk to your doctor in France instead of a doctor in your new country, consider video consultations!
In case of danger, many hotlines are available in various countries and in different languages, if you are not necessarily looking for a French-speaking professional. In the United States, you can call National Suicide Prevention: 1 800 273 TALK (8255). In Australia: Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14. In Germany: Telefonseelsorge on 0800 111 0111. Or in Italy: Telefono Azzurro on 1 96 96.