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Expats in the “Land of Smiles” often have a pretty sweet deal – a relocation package offering a plethora of perks, a new country and culture to explore, and memories to last a lifetime. So, it may come as a surprise that many actually suffer in silence. Whether it’s not having family in Thailand or being unable to speak Thai, this article written by our friends at Pacific Prime Thailand explores the pertinent issue of mental health and sheds light on the importance of a preventative approach.
A highly significant and under focused problem
According to research by AXA-Global Healthcare, almost nine out of ten expats have felt isolated during their time abroad. The reasons provided are facing a language barrier (24%), a lack of a local support network (20%), and a need to get oriented in a new location (18%). A number of expats would also consider moving back to their home countries if it meant they could be closer to loved ones.
It’s not surprising that feelings of isolation can quickly spiral into mental health conditions. From Aetna International’s claims data between 2014-2016, depression and anxiety emerged as the top two most prevalent conditions amongst expats. However, what’s surprising is that only a mere and shocking 6% are concerned about mental health issues prior to their relocation. The statistics hint that a feeling of open-mindedness and excitement tends to prevail.
Expats in Thailand will be happy to know that worries are typically unwarranted for them, as the country fares well on matters relating to expats’ mental and physical wellbeing. In HSBC’s Expat Experience Report in 2019, the country was ranked number four in the world for this particular measure. As the only Asian country to feature in the top five, it was just behind Spain, Australia, and New Zealand.
By no means should expats take anything for granted though, as everyone is equally susceptible to mental health conditions. In Thailand, even if external factors may not be a major trigger, there might be a whole host of internal ones that make expats fall victim to mental health conditions. It’s best to take all the necessary precautions – after all, prevention is better than cure.
Prevention is better than cure
There’s still quite a lot of stigma around mental health conditions, and due to the dominance of social media in our lives, a pressure to be living the perfect life during your time abroad. For hopeful and adventurous expats in Thailand, take a step back to process all the new changes you’ve faced. Adopting a preventative approach to mental health will help you settle in and feel at ease. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
● Take a language class
If you don’t speak any Thai, you may be mistaken for a tourist and be a victim to the “dual pricing” system that plagues the country. This can be a daily challenge, leaving you feeling like a permanent tourist in your new home. It might be worth enrolling in a Thai language class to learn the basics. Not only will this help you understand and absorb the culture, but you’ll also be able to meet locals, interact with them, create meaningful bonds, and expand your network.
● Keep in touch with folks back at home
While it’s nice to integrate in Thailand, forge new connections here, as well as push yourself out of your comfort zone, it’s equally important to stay in contact with your friends and family back at home. They are the ones who know you best – and sometimes you need familiarity to give you solace. With a multitude of social media networks and video conferencing apps to choose from, keeping in touch has never been easier.
● Speak to a counselor (or those going through similar experiences)
One big downer for expats is that life in Thailand doesn’t live up to their expectations. Perhaps you’ve visited as a tourist, fell in love with the country, and moved here permanently – only to realize that expat life is a whole new ball game. The key is not to be too hard on yourself and speak to someone about it. This could be a professional counselor or even a fellow expat friend.
● Have a good health insurance plan
Falling ill abroad is never part of the plan, but it helps if you remain prepared. To ensure that you’ll receive the best healthcare, and thus alleviate some of the stress and anxiety of being an expat in Thailand, you should secure a good health insurance plan. When comparing plans, go for ones that provide mental health coverage. Don’t be tempted by cheap ones, at the expense of missing out on coverage, as this may simply cause you more stress later on.
Pacific Prime Thailand offers health insurance plans for the country and beyond. Specializing in expat health insurance, family health insurance, and even travel insurance, they’re a leading insurance broker that keeps clients’ needs and budgets firmly in mind. Whether you’re simply considering getting or actively looking to purchase, you can contact them for expert advice or plan comparison.