Expatriate employee mental health – the problem:
“An unnamed American working in the Persian Gulf region took her own life on 24 February 2017, the apparent victim of clinical depression. Her fellow expats were shocked – in part because the woman had been “vivacious and full of life,” in part because her death brought to mind their own struggles. A friend of the woman and former expat from Great Britain wrote on the Poleax blog, that her death made him realize that “it could have been me, just as it could have been one of many others I knew in the Gulf with untreated or improperly treated mental health issues. I know I’m not unique in this regard. Any of us could have been an internet montage, a Facebook group, an I-knew-that-guy.”
Expatriates tend to be outgoing and achievement-oriented, looking forward to the adventures and challenges of a life abroad. They are generally positive and hard-working, which is why they (and their employers) can be particularly under-prepared for the psychological fallout of an overseas move. No one expects depression to hit “these sorts of people”.
And yet, it should be obvious given the increasing prevalence of depression worldwide that expatriates should be particularly vulnerable to its effects. One of the main safeguards against depression is close, supportive relationships. Losing one’s network of family and friends as a physical presence (which internet contact can’t replace) exacerbates loneliness.
Add to that language and social barriers towards making new friends, the pressure to perform at a foreign workplace, and homesickness, and you have an accumulation of stressors which would be hard for the most psychologically hearty among us. If the expatriate employee also comes with a family or spouse, their ability to adapt and integrate will be a factor in the mental health of both parties.
The top five pressure points for international assignees were:
62.8% Challenges of a new job
44.6% Inability to take part in activities available at home
42.8% Loss of a support network
40.7% Language and other cultural difficulties
37.9% Worker’s spouse is unable to find work
At Nantes Psychotherapy and Consulting Services we believe there should be no stigma associated with the arduous task of adapting to a foreign country. We hope to make finding appropriate help in Nantes easier for those having trouble with adaptation issues.
Skype or phone sessions with overseas therapists, though helpful, can’t replace the experience of being in a room with a psychotherapist who speaks your language and understands adaptation issues.
Nantes Psychotherapy and Consulting Services can be a part of the assistance provided to expatriate employees.
Services for Expatriate Employees:
Confidential short-term strategic therapy for adaptation issues, or longer-term psychotherapy as needed.
Short-term couples counseling
Child psychotherapy for issues specific to children of expat families
Services for Employers:
Nantes Psychotherapy and Consulting Services can assist your company in creating a Preventive Action Plan to assist in mental health well-being. Companies can help prepare expats for potential problems, as well as reduce the stigma associated with depression related to adaptation in a foreign country. NPCS can help you get the dialogue started.
Outreach and education on adaptive problems of expatriates for employers.
Recognizing stress and burn-out
Recognizing isolation, loneliness
Other warning signs of distress
On-site Training and Supervision in assessment and intervention for understanding mental health issues.
NPCS provides workshops and supervision (in-depth support) to develop skills for anyone who would like to respond and assist in mental health challenges. No clinical training is required to learn these directives in a small group setting.
Training focuses on (but is not limited to) …
Assessment of mental health issues (recognizing depression, suicidal tendencies, or other problems)
Supportive listening skills
Providing supportive feedback
Encouraging professional help
Fostering positive and supportive self-care
NPCS can adapt workshops, conferences, and supervision according to your institution’s needs. Contact us to learn more.