Mental Health Resources while Abroad
Disclaimer: While we are not professionals, we can see how stigmas around “living your best you” while living abroad can hinder our capacity to face our biggest issues and we want you to know that, if this is your situation, you are not alone. We recognize that right now is an extra-difficult time encourage your to reach out to someone you care about or a healthcare professional if you are having any serious issues.
We have talked about dealing with anxiety and other mental health issues while living abroad. We recognize that it is not easy to tackle these problems alone, therefore, we want to provide you with some resources that can help you in your own journey. Remember, that talking to a professional is a sign of strength and personal power—you are not alone.
Your Study/Work Abroad Program
If you have come abroad with a specific program, they will most likely offer you both one-on-one time with a teacher (if you have to talk things through) as well as access to mental health professionals. Starting with people inside your program may be a good place for you to start if you feel like you can trust the team enough to start confiding in them. We think that these program leaders are a good start for you if you are not even sure how to voice your concerns. However, keep in mind that the majority of people who work with study abroad and work abroad experiences are probably qualified health care professionals.
What general program leaders will often do for their students or employees is point them in the right direction and support them throughout their journey. If you are feeling embarrassed or stressed about asking for help, remember that the teams in place are there for you to turn to in your times of need. We have found that most programs care deeply for their members and would want you to always reach out to them.
For example, when Claudia worked at the International Relations Office in the school Social Sciences and Political Science in Granada, she was surprised that oftentimes students would come in to confer with and ask advice from her boss. While the boss wasn’t qualified as a psychologist, she was one of the most knowledgeable people in questions of what students could access with their program. And, often times, while she wasn’t the end solution, Claudia’s boss who was the key to a solution further down the road.
A Private Solution in Your Area
Depending on the size of the town or city that you are living in, you will be able to find healthcare professionals who have opened their own private practices. As it is difficult to get into public healthcare many wonderful practitioners end up grouping together and starting their own clinics. We understand that, sometimes, talking to people you know about the situation can be even more difficult than reaching out to a stranger. That is why we think that finding a private solution might be a good option for people who want time to process their situations with professionals, without the intermediary support of their programs.
While you will find many different services available to you depending on where you are, be sure to look for somewhere that houses certified professionals and consider getting a consultation. This first session is often free to ensure that both the healthcare professional and the patient are comfortable with the situation, so this can be a good opportunity for you to see if you fit with the person you are talking to. When you are having the session, make sure to ask about the pricing and if they accept insurance to make sure that the solution will fit your budget.
The National Health Care System
Depending on how you have decided to come and live abroad in Spain, you will have access to the health care system. You will have to make sure to register with the Spanish government and get your Tarjeta Sanitaria or your Healthcare Card sorted out before you can visit a doctor. Once you have taken care of the paperwork, everyone who belongs to this system has the right to see both psychiatrists and psychologists as part of their ‘normal’ healthcare package. This means that if you don’t have money to pay for private healthcare support, you should be covered by public insurance.
However, there is one thing that you should know about the public healthcare system in Spain, while it is fantastic, it can be slow. In the case of getting an appointment with a mental healthcare professional will mean that you first have to seen your general practitioner and, possibly, other doctors first. Like many things in the public healthcare system, it can work great, but it usually takes time. This means that if you will only be in the country for a short period of time or have a problem that needs to be resolved now, you might want to consider another option first as this solution is more viable for long-term issues.
We really value local resources as it means you can go talk to someone in person, something that we think will support you in your journey. However, we also recognize that it may be difficult to find someone who speaks your language and it is hard to completely express yourself in a foreign language, especially about topics as sensitive and serious as mental illness. Therefore, sometimes the most straightforward solution is to find resources online that can help you. By connecting to professionals who are online, you can find people who fit your needs, wherever you may be. We consider the following women to be resources and fountains of knowledge when it comes to online support.
The Mindful Expat
You can see where we have collaborated with Dana from the Mindful Expat here and here. She has a great podcast about living abroad as an expat and has an online practice helping people who are living abroad. While she is physically located and specializes in France, her online consulting has a much wider reach. In addition, she has a great list of resources that can help you if you are in a moment of need and don’t know what to do or who to turn to.
The Intentional Expat
We have been following Melissa on social media for a while now and we really enjoy what she has to share. She believes in living proactively and being aware of what is happening around us so we can each live our own best life. Like Dana she offers online counselling sessions although she also has expertise in working with people who are living abroad in Spain. If you’re looking for regular life inspiration when you are feeling down, we would recommend checking out her blog (it’s not updated every week, but the posts are gems).
Location Independent Therapists
Founded in part by Melissa from the Intentional expact and recently called to our attention, this web page supports users find online or location independent therapy support. And, if you don’t see someone there that fits your profile, they can help you find a directory with a therapist who fits your needs.
We hope that by providing you with some of the options you have, you will be motivated to reach out and find the support you need. If you have more questions or just need someone to push you in the right direction, feel free to reach out and we will do our best to help you find what you are looking for.
Please leave you pro-tips and favorite places for mental health support in the comments!