Travel is enjoyable, but there is no doubt that it can be stressful. Even if you don’t have a prior history of mental illness, travel stress, mood changes, anxiety and other mental health concerns can unexpectedly affect you and potentially disrupt your trip. Studies show that psychiatric emergencies are the leasing cause for air evacuations along with injuries and cardiovascular disease.
FACTORS AFFECTING MENTAL HEALTH DURING TRAVEL
Your mental and physical health prior to and during a trip determines how well you will cope with travel stress. Consider the following:
- Tiredness, lack of sleep.
- Major life events occurring prior to travel such as a birth, death, wedding, divorce, moving or serious illness.
- Difficult home or professional life; experiencing recent emotional exhaustion or financial strain.
- Being lonely; prone to depression and anxiety.
- Having pre-existing psychiatric, behavioral, neurological disorders; memory or cognitive deficits.
- Dependence on, or misuse, of psychoactive substances.
- Using medications that have psychiatric or neurological side effects (some anti-retroviral and anti-malarial).
- Type and length of travel; adventure, business, leisure, emergency aid work, missions.
- Travel destination; travelling to politically unstable or war-torn areas, returning to a place where psychological trauma occurred.
MENTAL HEALTH ABROAD
Mental illness is an under recognized public health concern and travelers often have difficulty accessing adequate emergency psychiatric care abroad. While some countries are leading the way in mental healthcare and treatment, 30% of countries do not have a budget dedicated to mental health and 64% do not have any mental health legislation or outdated.
Accessibility to a psychiatrist varies from more than 10 per 100,000 to fewer than 1 per 300,000 people. Almost 70% of psychiatric beds are in mental hospitals rather than general hospitals or in integrated community care facilities.
Persons with mental health concerns have the additional burden of dealing with stigma, negative attitudes and behavior towards their illness. Prejudice and discrimination towards mental illness may determine the type of medical care you will receive abroad.