This week is Mental Health Week, and a good time to think about how we look after ourselves and each other.
A wide-ranging scientific study this year found that people living away from their home country are 2.5 times more likely to experience depression. In fact, 56 percent of expats in the study reported having experienced anxiety or depression; more than half. Culture shock, a change in lifestyle, and being cut off from usual support networks are all factors which put expats at greater risk. For some the challenges of a new job can become overwhelming; for “trailing spouses”, inability to find work or a purpose can become the problem.
Because the symptoms are not visible, it’s easy to slip into thinking that mental health problems are not “real” or “serious”. However mental health problems like stress have been shown to have a negative effect on physical health, and feeling low can lead people into potentially damaging behaviors, like excessive alcohol consumption, overeating, or even self-harm.
We’ve written before about the importance of how we talk to people experiencing mental health problems. Trying to reason someone out of depression, or to point out to them all the reasons they should feel good, is counterproductive. By definition depression is irrational, and making people feel guilty because they don’t feel like they’re supposed to, is not helpful. If you know someone who is feeling low this winter, start by acknowledging their feelings, not challenging them. The Depression Alliance recommends supportive statements like “We’ll get through this together.”
Although finding the right thing to say can be difficult, talking about mental health is important to remove the stigmas surrounding the subject. Depression is an illness like any other, and is not the fault of the person going through it. The festive season can be a particularly challenging time, so let’s break the silence and reach out to those who need a friend.
Photo: Ryan Melaugh via Flickr