In aid of Mental Health Awareness Week, here's a simple guide on travelling abroad with a mental health condition. It's more important than ever to talk about mental health. It's not rare - one in four are affected by mental health problems each year (Time to Change campaign, 2009).
Travelling brings about some of the best memories of your life but it is important to recognise that for some people, it can be extremely challenging. Lack of familiar support systems, disrupted daily routines, language barriers, culture shock and unexpected situations can intensify stress levels rather than alleviate them. Being well informed prior to travel is the best way to prevent any issues happening abroad - the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) offer a range of advice all in one booklet to help you. The best option is to be as prepared as possible by following a few simple steps:
What mental health services are available in the country you are travelling to?
Understanding of mental health can vary extensively from country to country which is why it is important to carry out your own research before you travel about your destination and the mental health services that they offer. Try and have local contact details for any mental health services for where you are travelling to as a precaution.
Who would be able to help you if your mental health deteriorated whilst abroad? How would you contact them?
It is good to always have at least one person who knows where you are and you can contact when you are travelling abroad. Have their number and details on your phone or on your person at all times. Try and make friendly with whoever you are travelling with - don't be afraid to let people know if you have any mental health issues. Having people aware can really help out if you ever get into trouble.
Remember, if you ever get into difficulty abroad, you can contact the nearest embassy wherever you are for free and reliable advice and information. They can put you in contact with relatives or contacts in the UK if you have some sort of trouble whilst abroad. It is useful to make a note of embassies which are nearby to where you are travelling to.
Is your medication legal and available in your destination?
Not all medication (including prescribed medication) from the UK is legal in other countries. It is essential that you check this out with your doctor before you travel. The FCO advises that you should also check with them what vaccinations or other health precautions you need to take for where you are travelling to abroad.
Does your insurance cover your mental health condition?
It is essential that you get comprehensive travel insurance before you go - this covers and kind of medical conditions you may have as well as any activities you plan to undertake abroad. Failure to do so could result in having to pay for the cost of any emergency yourself, including medical bills - which could cost thousands of pounds!
If you are travelling in Europe, do you have an EHIC card?
An EHIC card covers any medical treatment necessary whilst abroad due to either an accident or illness in Europe. You can apply online for your free EHIC at www.nhs.uk/ehic.
If you take medication, do you have enough for the duration of your trip?
Ensure you have the correct amount of medication for your trip - it may be useful to have more than necessary just in case there is any issues. Make sure you keep a copy of any prescribed medicine that you have.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) offer a handy checklist for anyone who wants to travel abroad with a mental health condition. It's also worth checking out the FCO website for any relevant and specific information on where you are travelling to so you can ensure you know before you go!
It's time to talk about mental health - don't let it stop you from going wherever you want to go!