I got curious and wondered if depression among expats had been written about. A quick Google search told me “expat AND depression” had been covered more than 6400 times – on Medium.com alone.
I can understand that.
Dealing with Depression while Far From Home
Moving to another country calls for tremendous energy, optimism, self-confidence, and independence. This may be why those with the gumption to make an international move initially respond by trying to sweep the symptoms of depression or anxiety under the rug.
While moving to another country is one of the most adventurous life decisions you can make, it comes with a long list of stressors. In addition to cultural changes and language barriers, expats are often required to rely extensively on locals to help them navigate the simplest of tasks – from buying medicine at the pharmacy to signing a lease – something that over time can damage one’s sense of competency.
Everyone is different and for many people this expat exhaustion will pass – it may be just another part of expat life we have to get through. Others may find themselves in the grip of depression.
Expat depression is real and well documented online. Be sure to seek medical help if you feel this sounds like you.
Who can I talk to?
You may find yourself feeling the urge to isolate. Luckily there are many resources available including a Facebook group called Depression and No Excuses . It's like a meet-up or support group but entirely safe and anonymous if you want that option
Counselors, psychologists (such as those available via Skype), psychiatrists (if your health insurance covers international travel) Any combination you may choose to work with an expat-focused psychotherapist in your home country who has experience of dealing with the pressures and challenges that you may be experiencing. Another way to get support. Check to see if there are any therapists or counselors where you live who are experienced in supporting Expats.
Review the site, What is Therapy? as often people don't know all the things that a therapist can do for them. There are different forms of therapy out there and your culture may affect the choices you make when seeking help and so will information given to you by psychologists or therapists locally which is up to personal choice but again should be known beforehand if this sounds like what so that you can choose wisely.
How to Cope
- Get enough sleep.
- Get out and exercise.
- Keep alcohol intake in check.
- Join groups to connect.
- Don't overdo it on social media.
- Let people know they can help you.
- Seek professional help.
A final thought - It is largely up to the individual but it's worth going into a working relationship with your chosen professional so that they know what motivates and how best to help you through their own understanding of YOUR cultural codes.
Jerry Nelson is an American writer living the expat life in Argentina and winner of the Revi 2021 Reader Award. You can find him at any of hundreds of sidewalk cafes and hire him through Fiverr, join the quarter-million who follow him on Twitter or contact him at [email protected]