Foreign travel advice for people with mental health needs

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Overview

This guide provides advice for British nationals with mental health needs, and their families and carers, to prepare for travelling and living abroad, including how the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) can help. It explains some of the differences between English law and practice and that of other countries.

To produce this guide, we have gathered feedback from a range of people with mental health needs and organisations that specialise in mental health support. This information on mental health abroad is also available in pdf format. The information complements our fuller advice in Support for British nationals abroad: a guide, which sets out further details of who we can help.

When offering you support, we will ensure that our help is accessible and equal to everyone, no matter what your sex, race, age, sexuality, disability, religion or belief.

Factors affecting mental health during travel

Your mental and physical health prior to, and during, a trip determine how well you will cope with travel stress. Lack of familiar support systems, disrupted daily routines, language barriers, culture shock and unexpected situations can intensify stress levels rather than alleviate them. Consider the following:

  • tiredness or lack of sleep
  • major life events occurring prior to travel such as a birth, death, wedding, divorce, moving or serious illness
  • difficult home or professional life; experiencing recent emotional exhaustion or financial strain
  • being lonely; prone to depression and anxiety
  • having pre-existing psychiatric, behavioural, neurological disorders; memory or cognitive deficits.
  • dependence on, or misuse of, psychoactive substances
  • using medications that have psychiatric or neurological side effects (some anti-retrovirals and anti-malarials)
  • stopping medications while travelling and the side effects of this withdrawal
  • infections (particularly urinary tract infections in people over 60 years of age) are an example of the physical health issues that can radically affect behaviour and mental health
  • type and duration of travel; adventure, business, leisure, emergency aid work, missions
  • travel destination; travelling to politically unstable or war-torn areas, returning to a place where psychological trauma occurred
  • there are clear links between mental and physical health, which makes looking after yourself whilst travelling and while abroad so important

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