Living abroad: how can you assess your mental health?

Mental health has been in the global spotlight in 2021, from attempts to understand the wider impact of the pandemic to sporting superstars withdrawing from prestigious competitions. 

Living abroad: how can you assess your mental health?
A woman feeling under stress at work. Photo: Getty Images

Competing as an elite athlete may seem far removed from your everyday working life. But the increasing willingness of many athletes, celebrities, and even royalty to talk openly about their personal mental health challenges has wider societal implications. 

After moving abroad, it can be difficult to deal simultaneously with an unfamiliar culture, different ways of doing things at work, and a new language. If you moved shortly before or even during the pandemic, things may have been even more challenging for you; you may have been working mainly from home with few chances to meet colleagues, and feeling the distance to family in your home country more than ever.

If you feel concerned about your mental health while living abroad or during an overseas assignment, what should you do? The Local has partnered with AXA – Global Healthcare to offer some guidance for individuals and examine why employers have a crucial role to play.

Working abroad? With AXA’s global health plans, you can speak to a psychologist from wherever you are in the world1

Making mental health a bigger priority

Depression affects more than 300 million people globally, with more than 260 million living with anxiety disorders2, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The cost to the global economy is around US$1 trillion each year. Furthermore, WHO says that mental health problems can “seriously exacerbate” physical illness. Despite the scale of the problem, countries spend less than two percent of their national health budgets on mental health on average, says WHO.

But are attitudes changing and will mental health eventually be given equal billing with physical health? The reasons for companies to make the mental health of their employees a top priority keep growing. 

Steps to take if you’re feeling low

Opening up about your mental health can be uncomfortable. If you’re feeling low, you may feel you just need to somehow carry on regardless. But it’s important to know that early intervention has proven more effective than trying to continue as feelings of stress or anxiety build up.

So, what should you do if you want to get a realistic assessment of your mental wellbeing? Rather than waiting for a crisis, you can turn to online tools, such as AXA’s LowMoodQuiz and AnxietyQuiz, to honestly assess your state of mind. Such tools are intended to help you as you deal with everyday stresses and strains, not only when a major event occurs.

A young man crying in his workplace. Photo: Getty Images

What if you know you’re struggling and feel the time has come to seek help? Here are three different ways you could start a meaningful conversation with your manager, according to AXA – Global Healthcare:

  1. Be proactive – look for opportunities to regularly check-in with your manager, whether through digital communications or telephone. Could you set aside 30 minutes at the start and end of each week to reflect on your achievements together and discuss any challenges? 
  2. Use a mood scale – actively and regularly reflecting on your mood can help you recognise and flag times when you might need support from your manager. Making use of online tools like the quizzes above could help you.
  3. Ask questions – encourage your manager to share details about the support available to help you maintain good mental health. Fearful of asking for help? You shouldn’t be. Do you have the option, for example, to speak confidentially to a trained professional, whether face-to-face or by phone or video chat?

Your employer’s role

AXA suggests managers can look out for signs that an employee could be struggling with their mental health. If you have a benefits package, your employer or manager could also share details of the support available through that, such as confidential ‘virtual therapy’ by phone or video call. As a global leader in health insurance, AXA has multiple levels of health cover to fit your needs, giving you access to local healthcare professionals and facilities.

If you’re a member with a global healthcare plan, you can use AXA’s Virtual Doctor service³ to confidentially discuss anything you like. If it’s mental health support you need, they’ll refer you to the Mind Health service, to speak to a fully qualified psychologist.

Find out more about how AXA – Global Healthcare can support you

1. The service provides you with up to 6 sessions with a psychologist, per mind health concern, per policy year. Available with a healthcare plan from AXA – Global Healthcare.

2. Research commissioned by AXA found that anxiety and depression were among the top health and wellbeing concerns for expats.

3. The Virtual Doctor and Mind Health services are provided by Advance Medical (a Teladoc Health company).

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and presented by AXA.

AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited. Registered in Ireland number 630468. Registered Office: Wolfe Tone House, Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin 1. AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited. Registered in England (No. 03039521). Registered Office: 20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG, United Kingdom. AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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CEAM: How to get a French European health insurance card

Before Brexit, many UK nationals living in France relied on their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to cover their healthcare. But since January, things have changed - here's what you need to know.

CEAM: How to get a French European health insurance card
The card covers you if you need medical treatment while abroad. Photo: AFP

What is an EHIC?

The European Health Insurance Card basically means EU countries picking up the tab for medical costs of each other's citizens while they are visiting.

It's intended for emergency or unplanned medical treatments and there's plenty that it doesn't cover, including cruises and the cost of repatriation so you should always have travel insurance as well for trips away.

What changes?

Since the UK left the EU its citizens are no longer covered by the scheme – however the trade deal published on Christmas Eve 2020 did contain some good news about EHICs.

UK nationals living in the UK and just visiting the EU can continue to use their existing EHIC cards until they expire. They then need to apply for a new card known as a GHIC – applications can be made online HERE.

UK nationals living in France can continue to use an EHIC only if they fall into one of the following groups;

  • a UK State Pensioner or receiving some other exportable benefits, and you have a registered S1 form or E121
  • a frontier worker (someone who works in one state and lives in another) and you've been one since before 1 January 2021, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in the host state, and you’re eligible for an S1 form or E106
  • a worker posted to work in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland by your UK employer, and you've been there since before 1 January 2021, where the country has agreed to let the posting continue
  • an eligible family member or dependant of one of the above
  • a UK student studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, and you've been there since before 1 January 2021

These groups will all have to apply for a new card that specifies their right to it under the Withdrawal Agreement – more on how to do that HERE.

UK nationals living in France who do not fall into one of those groups need to apply for a French card, the carte européen d'assurance maladie or CEAM.

How to apply

First you need to be registered within the French healthcare system. Hopefully people who are full time residents in France are already registered within the system and have a carte vitale, but if not you can find out how to do it HERE.

Once registered within the system you can create an account on the online portal This is useful for all sorts of things including keeping track of your claims, getting the latest health bulletins and downloading the attestation that shows you have up-to-date health cover in France. 

Once registered on the site, head to the mes informations section. You will see the Carte européen d'assurance maladie section which, if you do not have one, gives you the option to order one. It will then be sent by post to the address you have registered.

The cards only last for two years, so you can also use this site to check the expiry date on yours and order another one if necessary.

This card will cover you for all trips within the EU, the EEA and Switzerland. It will also cover you should you need medical treatment on trips back to the UK – although as with the EHIC it doesn't cover everything and shouldn't be regarded as a substitute for travel insurance.