Expat Focus Mental Health Update August 2022

UK consular support for mental health issues

The UK government offers a range of mental health advice and support for British citizens living abroad. You can find details by typing ‘gov.uk mental health [country]’ into a search engine. However, bear in mind that what services are available will depend on where you have moved, and not all countries are covered. As an example, if you’re contemplating a move to Spain, the British Consulate can:

  • Listen to you and help you look at your options
  • Help you contact friends and family
  • Visit you in hospital or prison
  • Raise any concerns about your treatment or welfare – for example, with hospital or prison authorities
  • Help doctors in Spain contact UK doctors who know your medical history
  • Give you information about local pharmacies
  • Offer help, if you choose to remain overseas
  • Contact your travel representative or travel insurance company

However, the consulate will not be able to:

  • Give you advice on mental health issues
  • Buy or supply medication
  • Withhold or remove your passport
  • Stop you from travelling abroad
  • Require you to return to the UK
  • Pay for you to return to the UK
  • Pay for your food, accommodation or medical bills
  • Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people

The site also gives details of local mental health resources.

Key projects in UAE to cover mental health

Three new healthcare projects, worth Dhs53.7m, have been announced by the Emirates Health Services (EHS) this month. One of these projects, Community Mental Health, is intended to cover prevention, treatment and rehabilitation in line with international best practices, and thus enhance existing local provision. It will, for example, extend the current provision of community mental healthcare by setting up ‘Halfway Villas’, which will serve as local specialised mental health units. These will be the first of their kind in the region.

The scheme also proposes setting up specialised mental health units in hospitals and clinics, digital mental health clinics, and a mental health counselling phone line. EHS will also be launching more general health services in the Metaverse.

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At present, the Al Amal Psychiatric Hospital is the main provider for mental health services, and expats are charged a fee. Check with EHS regarding forthcoming mental health provision for non-citizens.

07 Therapy platform in Kuwait

Meanwhile, Kuwait is also enhancing its mental health services, collaborating with Egyptian mental health online platform 07 Therapy. This is described as a series of “technology-enabled and evidence-based therapeutic services delivered by a selected network of psychiatrists and psychotherapists to Arabic-speaking individuals around the globe.”

It is worth contacting 07 to find out if they will also be offering services in English or other languages, as the new scheme is intended to cover all citizens of Kuwait. Non-Arabic speaking expat residents make up a significant percentage of the Kuwaiti population.

Dubai is ‘the most overworked’ city in the world

Cloud based access provider Kisi have released a survey earlier this summer which shows that Dubai is the ‘most overworked’ city in the world. Overwork is, obviously, a prime cause of anxiety and stress and often results in burnout. Kisi’s researchers reached their conclusions by studying each city’s work intensity, vacation allowances, days of leave taken and the impact of inflation. They also assessed the “impact of the pandemic and the support offered in each city (49 global hubs as well as 51 US cities), as well as the quality of healthcare, access to mental healthcare and the extent of gender and LGBT+ equality.”

However, expat residents of Dubai – who make up 85% of the population – told Business Insider, in response to these findings, that they felt that they had a good work life balance and that Dubai had a working culture which was strongly results-oriented, rather than time based. This, accompanied by generous overtime and limited tax, meant that the people interviewed were happy with their working culture. In addition, many expats employ domestic staff, which leaves more time for personal interests and leisure.

When assessing these results, we need to be a little careful. Not all expats are equal, and much of the Dubai expat community is made up of non-Westerners, such as Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, who face more pressure, according to BE Centre Psychology in Dubai, as they are often the breadwinners in their families and responsible for people back home.

Kisi’s study ranked Dubai second-worst in the rankings when it comes to access to mental healthcare. The BE Centre told Business Insider that access to mental healthcare in Dubai is expensive and insurance coverage is limited. The Dubai Health Authority has ensured that psychiatric treatment is included in basic insurance plans, but local psychologists are concerned that this is not enough. Burnout in the region is, they warn, a genuine problem.

New Zealand subject to SAD

New Zealand is one of the world’s locations which suffers from a lack of sunny days, according to recent reports, and this may affect the mental health of expats who hail from sunnier climes. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that can afflict people in the colder, darker months, and can be treated by means of various methods, including the use of a lightbox. Regions that are furthest from the equator tend to be the most badly afflicted – which explains the concerns about New Zealand. Here, the months in which you are most likely to suffer are between May and September, since the seasons are the opposite of the Northern Hemisphere. Resources in-country include:

  • Healthline 0800 611 116
  • Samaritans – 0800 726 666
  • Depression helpline – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202


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