Everyone needs and deserves to take care of their mental health so that they can grow and develop as whole human being—wherever in the world they may be. Mental health is interconnected to our physical health, and is equally important, if not more important, when it comes to quality of life.
First things first, I’m talking about mental health support in the broadest way possible. I mean the range of communities and people that support our mental health including, but not limited to mental health professionals. Healthy friend and family relationships, coworkers and schoolmates, spiritual communities, etc. are all potential mental health support systems.
Besides the obvious reason that serial expats and global nomads are on the move than the average person, there are very real barriers and some perceived barriers that get in the way of finding support in a global transition.
Let’s get into 5 common reasons:
1) Culturally appropriate mental health services might not be locally available.
Unlike undergoing a heart surgery or medical procedure where our biology is basically the same, talk therapies works best when provided in your mother tongue by someone who is knowledgeable about your culture. Mental health professions are simply not equally developed across the globe. While you deserve a therapist who gets you, this can be hard to find where you just moved.
2) Licensed professionals in other countries may not have the right to provide telehealth services where you live.
If you live somewhere where social workers, counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists are regulated by law, someone without the appropriate credentials in that nation (or state) does not have the jurisdiction to provide services to you. This applies even if you are just on vacation. In the age of telehealth after Covid-19, regulations are changing but professionals who hold a license need to stay up to date on what the limitations are for practicing outside of their jurisdiction.
3) Friends and family are faraway and may not get it.
Unless they have been through a global transition themselves, chances are that they won’t understand how to support you. They may wonder why you don’t just come back if it’s so hard or not understand how someone could be depressed while “living the dream.” Escapism sells and some have the impression that living overseas is like an extended vacation. The isolation and adjustment that comes with an international move are hard enough to predict and range from logistics to identity issues.
4) Social circles are small, interconnected, and fluid.
Finding social support can hard when you are new and before you have had time to build intimate friendships. At the beginning, you won’t know who you can trust with your “personal business.” You may find that you have many more “dual relationships” than you would in your home country. Expats tend to be connected in multiple roles and function much like a small town. Friends may have their spouses working together and their children in the same school system so there is social risk involved in making and maintaining friendships. Nomads may have less overlap, but higher turnover. Social relationships are forged quickly, but are fluid as people come and go. You might need more or other support than new friendships can provide.
5) You might be being too hard on yourself.
Many expats feel caught off guard by their mental health concerns. It’s a surprise that unpleasant emotions are part of the process: loneliness, imposter syndrome, sadness, anger, and questioning everything. Perhaps you never expected the adjustment process to be so challenging or never needed to focus on your mental health before this chapter of your life. Others feel guilty for struggling in a lifestyle that may be privileged and hold themselves to unrealistic standards. The idea of seeking professional help online could feel selfish when you already have so many logistics to figure out.
By identifying and naming them, it’s easier to problem solve and generate unique solutions for your life and location. Part of the adventure is dealing with the emotional struggles that come with change and building resilience.
Just because global transition is tough, does not mean you have to “tough it out” on your own!
Professional support can be a welcome relief and an empowering boost.
There’s nothing like having a nonjudgmental space to be honest and get an objective perspective when you are transitioning between worlds. It’s not an easy task and having an expert in your corner can help you get the most out of the new and positive experiences coming your way.
If you have questions about how you can overcome any of these barriers, consider scheduling a Discovery Consultation call with me—it’s not just for clients interested in working with me!
I offer the consultation service to help nomads and expats determine what kind of services are appropriate for their situation. I make recommendations for increasing the available mental health support and provide relevant international resources so that you can take the next step with confidence. Take advantage of my Discovery Consultation offering if you or a friend needs real time answers from a professional.
Getting mental health support is hard enough as it is, so let’s be proactive about prioritizing our mental health as expats, nomads, and globally mobile people.