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Mental health: what are the warning signs international residents should look out for?

Even today, mental health issues are too often subject to stigma and taboos. If you’re living or working abroad, you can face huge challenges and not know where to turn for help or support.

Mental health: what are the warning signs international residents should look out for?
Photo: Getty Images

The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on some issues of stress, loneliness and depression. But it should not need a global crisis to increase awareness of and create more open discussion about such a serious issue.

The Local has partnered with AXA – Global Healthcare to examine how and why people living international lives should pay special attention to their mental health.

Moving abroad to work? Find out more about AXA – Global Healthcare’s international health insurance options

Trouble adjusting? You’re not alone

Following a career overseas as an international worker can be exciting and challenging in equal measure. Multinational workforces are now the norm in most global major cities and businesses increasingly view diversity as one of their biggest strengths.

Yet many people struggle to adapt as they face up to dealing with culture shock, new ways of working, a different language, and being distant from friends and family. If this sounds familiar, you’re far from alone.

One in five employees surveyed in AXA’s 2020 World of Work research¹ experienced mind health difficulties while working away from home. Half said that the biggest impact on their mental health came at the start of their time in a new location.

Mental health challenges faced when working away from home can have a number of consequences, such as work performance issues, increased risk of illness and organizational difficulties. In some cases, this can lead to assignments ending early and missed experiences. 

Working away from home always comes with its own series of challenges, without mental health difficulties compounding the situation. This is why it’s so important not only to monitor how you’re doing, but also be able to have meaningful conversations with your manager if you’re struggling.

This is not always possible. Around two thirds (64 percent) of employees surveyed agreed that their employer could do more to support their mental health and 50 percent said that their employer only offers support in response to a crisis¹. In taking a new position overseas, it’s worthwhile asking what support a potential employer can offer you.

With AXA’s Mind Health service, you can speak to a psychologist from wherever you are in the world².

Know the warning signs

While everybody responds to stress and difficulties differently, there are common signs that you may be struggling. If you experience a number of the following over the space of a few weeks, it’s worth contacting a health professional to talk.

Reflect, reevaluate, recharge

It could be worth monitoring your mood and observing whether there is a discernible dip, or an increase in negative feelings.

There are a number of free apps and online tools, including AXA’s Low Mood and Anxiety Quizzes, that can allow you to track your daily mood over the space of weeks or months. They can also allow you to identify triggers for sudden dips in mood, or anxiety.

If the results of your mood tracking raises concerns about your mental health, your insurer will often have support services to help you rest, recharge and heal. 

AXA, a global leader in health insurance, has multiple levels of cover to suit you at different stages of your life, giving you access to local healthcare professionals and facilities. If you struggle with the local language, and/or prefer to speak to a doctor from where you are, their Virtual Doctor service can do everything from consultations, to prescriptions and referrals to specialists if you need further treatment³. 

Mental health is as important as our physical health, and it deserves the same attention. If you’re in an environment that may lead to increased stress and mental health challenges, it’s worth considering how you can take the best care of yourself and make the most of your opportunities abroad.

Understand the range of insurance options that can help you take care of your health with AXA

1. Research conducted in April 2020 by Savanta. A total of 543 HR decision makers (108 in North America, 105 in the UK, 51 in France, 54 in Germany, 111 in China, 55 in Hong Kong and 59 in Singapore) and 568 non-native assignees (107 in North America, 113 in the UK, 57 in France, 57 in Germany, 116 in China, 60 in Hong Kong and 65 in Singapore) were surveyed.

2. The service provides you with up to 6 sessions with a psychologist, per mind health concern, per policy year.

3.  Appointments are subject to availability. You do not need to pay or claim for a consultation but you will be charged for the cost of the initial phone call when using the call back service. Telephone appointments are available 24/7/365 and call-backs are typically within 24 hours. Video appointments are available between 08.00 and 00.00 UK time, Monday to Friday. Video appointments in German are available between 08:00-20:00 CET, Monday to Friday. Prescriptions are available if medically necessary and are subject to your location.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and presented by AXA.

AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited. Registered in Ireland number 630468. Registered Office: Wolfe Tone House, Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin 1. AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited. Registered in England (No. 03039521). Registered Office: 20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG, United Kingdom. AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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HEALTH

Reader question: How to get a flu vaccination in Austria?

Austrian doctors and virologists have warned of a particularly strong flu wave this winter and recommend that people get vaccinated. Here's how to get the shot in each province.

Reader question: How to get a flu vaccination in Austria?

Austrian experts have said there would likely be an exceptionally high wave of the flu after hardly any cases were registered in the past two years. The measures against Covid-19 prevented infections with Sars-CoV-2 – and curbed the spread of influenza and other cold viruses.

This is about to change this season as Covid measures were relaxed and airborne viruses spread again, they said.

In principle, the influenza vaccination protects against symptomatic infection for four months: “About 80 percent for H1 viruses, about 50 to 60 percent for H3 strains and 60 to 70 percent for B viruses,” said Monika Redlberger-Fritz, a virologist from Med-Uni Vienna.

READ ALSO: Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Austria

She added: “But even with vaccine breakthroughs, you are still very well protected against complications, hospitalisations and death.”

Unlike the Covid-19 vaccination, the flu jab is not organised by the federal government but by the respective provinces, which file a report only after the flu season. In every province, the vaccine is free for children, but many ask adults to pay for a fee or get it from their doctors. In Vienna, the flu vaccination is free for everyone.

Here is how to get the vaccine in each province in campaigns carried out with the participation or knowledge of the government – companies and private insurance institutions can also start their own vaccination campaigns.

Vienna

Vienna offers free flu vaccinations for every resident. You can register online with the impfservice.wien or visit one of the centres that accept people without appointments (for example, the Austria Center Vienna). 

All that is necessary is for you to bring a document with your picture and wear an FFP2 mask. If you have an e-card and a vaccination passport, bring those with you as well. There is also a form to fill out, but those are available on-site.  

Lower Austria

The flu vaccine is free for children from six months to 15-years-old, and they can get the shot from established medical specialists. For those who are older, it is possible to receive the vaccination from a registered specialist, company medical service or from their employer, but they may be charged for it.

Residents of elderly and care homes get the vaccination free of charge in the facility where they live.

You can check more about the vaccination with your family doctor and paediatrician.

Upper Austria

Children aged six months to 15 can get the vaccine for free with their general practitioners and paediatricians. However, you may need to get the vaccine components at the pharmacy with a voucher and register with your doctor.

Older people can get the vaccination directly at vaccination sites in their district for €15. Residents of elderly and care homes get the vaccination free of charge in the facility where they live.

Styria

In Styria, children from six months to age 15 get the vaccine for free with paediatricians or public health services of their district authorities.  Older adults can get it from the public health service for €16 or €27 if they are older than 65. 

Residents of elderly and care homes get the vaccination free of charge in the facility where they live.

You can check more about the vaccination with your family doctor and paediatrician.

Carinthia

Children (from six months to 15 years) can get the vaccine for free in doctor’s offices or public health centres. You can check HERE for more information and register. For older people, the price is €22, though prices could be different if you go to your doctor instead of a vaccination centre.

Residents of elderly and care homes get the vaccination free of charge in the facility where they live.

Burgenland

Children aged six months to 15 years can get the vaccine free in pharmacies and with their physicians. At-risk patients older than that can also get free vaccines, but only while supplies last. 

Otherwise, buying and paying for the vaccine in a pharmacy or with your general practitioner is possible. There are also free vaccinations in elderly and care homes. 

You can check more about the vaccination with your family doctor and paediatrician.

Salzburg

Children from six months to 15 years can get the vaccine free with any doctor offering it. You can check with your family doctor or paediatrician. Anyone over 15 that wants to get it needs to buy it at a pharmacy (prices vary depending on the vaccine used) and can ask their family doctor. 

There are free vaccinations for residents of elderly and care homes. 

You can read more about the vaccination offer in Salzburg HERE.

Tyrol

The flu vaccine is free for children from six months to the age of 15 years, and they can get it directly from their doctor (a general practitioner or a paediatrician, for example). For those older, it’s possible to vaccinate with their family doctors, but prices vary for the product and pharmacies and the doctor’s fee. 

Residents of elderly and nursing homes aged 60 and over get the vaccination free of charge.

You can read more about the vaccination offer in Tyrol HERE.

Vorarlberg

In Vorarlberg, children aged six months to 15 years can get the vaccine free with their doctors. Adults can also get it from general practitioner’s offices but will need to pay variable costs (depending on doctor fees and which vaccine they choose).

There are free vaccinations for residents of elderly and care homes. 

You can read more about the vaccination offer in Vorarlberg HERE.

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