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Expatriate mental health: Breaking the silence and ending the stigma

Mental health is a growing issue for expats across the globe. In the analysis between 2014-2016, mental health claims prevalence in Europe showed the greatest increase (33 percent), followed by the Middle East and Africa (28 percent), the Americas (26 percent) and Southeast Asia (19 percent). 

Depression emerged as the most prevalent condition (50 percent prevalence increase), followed by anxiety (28 percent prevalence increase), and women between the ages of 30 and 49 were the most likely to seek treatment.

Dr. Mitesh Patel, Medical Director, Aetna International, says: “Part of the reason expats are more susceptible to mental health issues is the absence of the family and friends network they relied on for support back home. 

“We believe that employers should be taking a more preventive approach, introducing solutions such as employee assistance programmes. At best, these not only tackle mental health concerns when they arise, but encourage broader employee wellness to address issues before they escalate. Similarly, expats relocating independently should also consider preparing for the challenges they may face and seeking support before and during their move. Increasing knowledge around mental health issues and the support available can change attitudes towards those with mental health, and the behaviour of those coping with issues.”

“Our In Touch Care offering has been designed with this in mind. We offer one-to-one support to vulnerable members and provide ongoing support, ensuring that wherever they are in the world they have quick and easy access to the help they need. Since this service launched for our Americas’ members, we have seen a decrease in mental health claims costs per member, suggesting that our support may have reduced the frequency of their visits to mental health treatment providers.”

About the author
As Medical Director for Aetna International, Dr. Mitesh Patel provides guidance, support, and medical leadership for care management activities in Europe. Dr. Patel also manages Aetna International’s emergency evacuation program, helping to ensure appropriate health care delivery for our members around the globe. Dr. Patel graduated from King’s College University, London and also has a Healthcare Management degree from Imperial College, London. He is also a practicing physician in Emergency Medicine.

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