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Mental Health and Travel

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International travel can be fun, but it can also be stressful. Travel can spark mood changes, depression, anxiety, and uncharacteristic behaviors (violence, suicidal thoughts, and excessive drug and alcohol use), or it can worsen symptoms in people with existing mental illness. Anticipating the possible stresses of travel can help you cope with some of the thoughts and feelings that you may have before, during, or after your trip.

Before Your Trip

Talk to a doctor about your physical and mental health history. Don’t forget to mention any treatments for substance abuse, depression, or psychological problems, and any prescription or over-the-counter medicines or supplements you may take. If you are staying a long time or moving abroad, you may also want to get a referral for a mental health professional, especially if you are seeing one at home. Find out if your health insurance will cover mental health care received while abroad. If not, consider buying supplemental travel medical insurance that will. A policy that includes medical evacuation can help get you home in case of an emergency.

If you are taking prescription medicines, pack them in their original containers with a prescription or copy of a current prescription. Bring a little more of your medicine along with you than you think you will need. You may not be able to get a refill in your destination.

During Your Trip

Take care of your health by eating healthfully and exercising regularly. Get help immediately if you feel stressed , anxious, depressed, very angry, or as if you want to hurt yourself or someone else. The US embassy in your destination (http://www.usembassy.gov/) can help you locate medical services and will notify your family and friends in the event of an emergency.

Seek support if you need it. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) may have English-language meetings in your destination.

If you take medicines to treat a mental health condition, continue your normal routine. Don’t let your travels steer you off course with your treatment.

After Your Trip

Symptoms of a mental health condition may not present themselves until you return from your trip. Go see a doctor or other health professional as soon as you think you need help. Tell him or her about your recent trip, activities, and any medicines or supplements you have taken.

 
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