Be travel aware
The Mental Health Foundation is working in partnership with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to support their #travelaware campaign that provides guidance on travelling abroad and mental health.
Many people in the UK with mental health problems manage them well day to day. However, there are a few extra things to consider when travelling abroad.
Check your travel insurance covers pre-existing mental health problems before travelling and make sure that your medication is legal, available, and sufficient for your trip.
Changes to your itinerary or a delayed flight could impact your mental health needs so it is important to travel prepared – pack medication in your hand luggage and keep a record of your mental health contacts in the UK in case you need to reach them.
Research your travel destination and locate the local mental health services for that country. By following these simple steps, a relaxing trip can be easily enjoyed.
Check list for travelling overseas
Does your insurance cover your mental health problem?
Comprehensive travel insurance will cover you in the event of an emergency, and in the worst case scenario ensure that you (and your loved ones) can get home. When applying for travel insurance, if asked, you should always disclose if you live with or have lived with a mental health problem.
If living with a mental health problem you should also ensure that it is covered by the insurance policy. Although it is still possible to get travel insurance that doesn't cover the condition (providing cover for losing your passport etc.) you will not be covered for any health related costs should you become unwell abroad as a result of your mental health problem.
However, some insurance companies will not cover pre-existing medical conditions, including some mental health problems, or will charge increased premiums. It is worth shopping around to get the best deal for you.
If travelling in Europe do you have a European Health Insurance Card?
The European Health Insurance Card is free and gives you access to state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another European Economic Area (EEA) country of Switzerland at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. Find out more details here (gov.uk).
If you take medication do you have enough for your trip?
Err on the side of caution, and take more medication than you need in case of travel delays and keep the medication in your hand luggage.
Is your medication legal and available in your destination?
You can check directly with the consulate of the countries you are travelling to or through. Check quantities as well as the specific medication itself. Always carry medication in its original packaging and take a prescription with you if you can.
Do you know what mental health services are available in the country you are travelling to?
This is something you can research directly online. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides travel advice on countries including local laws and customs and health issues.
Who would help you if your mental health deteriorated abroad and how would you contact them?
Make sure next of kin, if not travelling with you, know that you are out of the country. If taking your phone, research whether there is an exit code (as in the case with the USA) and update key contact numbers to include the UK dialling +44. If there is a risk you might experience a mental health crisis, detailing your experience to date in a letter could assist healthcare professionals in the country you are travelling to.
If you self-manage your mental health problem take steps to maintain healthy practices abroad
Day to day self-management, including regular exercise, eating well and getting plenty of sleep, helps many people live with mental health problems. When travelling abroad for work or pleasure, it can be helpful to retain a good routine. Make time to continue doing the things that you know protect and sustain good mental health.