Healthcare: For Expats, By Expats
2014-06-01 | By Deborah Valentine
First appeared in THEXPAT Journal Summer 2014 Publication
The origins of ACCESS are firmly rooted in a concern for the mental well-being of the international community. It was acknowledged then, in 1986, as it still is now, 28 years on, that – when ‘dips’ are low or deep – not only is attention required, but that attention by and from those who implicitly understand that simply being far from home can be a challenge to everyday living is of the essence. The ACCESS Counselling Network Service is a testament to this, and continues to meet this demand today. For the deeper dips of mental health, as well as for the shallow and deeper waves of the challenges of expatriate living.
Times Change, Need Doesn’t
In their book, The Mobile Life, authors Diane Lemieux and Anne Parker, seasoned global travellers and expats themselves, draw attention to the fact that those living a mobile life are not only relocating, they are in fact trying to re-settle. For, in order to take full advantage of a life away from the familiar, one must, in fact, settle – and confront the challenges this entails. Relocation is displacement, and until one settles, one runs the risk of feeling… displaced. According to them, “… resettling is one of the most stressful ‘life events’ because it affects every aspect of our lives”, from what we do, who think we are, who others think we are, whom we know (or know us), how we meet our economic needs and so much more. It can be, and often is, an unsettling adventure, unless prepared for and supported.
Unlike many other social ‘phenomena’, that of the international, the expat, remains constant: every day, month, and year, people from all across the world are relocating, and attempting to resettle and build their lives in a new setting. The industry learns from the past, and applies its knowledge, but at the end of the day, new people venture out and find themselves unexpectedly confronting, still more often than not, challenges. The lucky ones are offered and can take advantage of support from human resources departments that are cognisant of the need of an existing network. Many, however, have to battle the waves of frustration, identity crisis, loneliness, homesickness, etc. on their own.
For all of them, seasoned or not, battling or simply struggling, coping, and trying to transition within – for instance – unfamiliar medical systems simply adds to the hurdles. For these people, and those requiring confidential support, the ACCESS Counselling Services Network is at hand: for a first referral, for continued support, or for connection to the most relevant or appropriate local services.
Sketching the Landscape
Mental well-being sounds ‘harmless’ enough; mental health has a perhaps heavier, ‘raw to the bone’ connotation. Let us not deceive ourselves: relocation, resettlement does not mean previous mental health conditions or situations somehow magically no longer exist… in fact there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the process of ‘relocating’ can in fact bring to the surface issues which in a ‘safe and known’ environment lay dormant. The simple process of relocating, and trying to settle, can bring up, and out, the best and worst in all of us. Which is why a group of mental health professionals, who are also cognisant of the challenges of expatriate living, and speak multiple languages, is a necessary resource for the international community.
The ACCESS Counselling Service Network (CSN) is a network of professional English as well as other language speaking counsellors and psychotherapists in the Netherlands. Every month two of the Counsellors are on-call to provide a free referral to the member of the Network best qualified to assist you. Confidentiality is guaranteed, as is a fast response to your call.
The ACCESS CSN offers a variety of expertise in different areas, including:
- Adjustment difficulties Learning problems
- Anxiety and depression Loss and bereavement
- Abuse Marital/relationship issues
- Children and families Sexuality issues
- Eating disorders Substance abuse
- Illness-related stress Stress and burn-out
The network is further supported by ACCESS Cancerlink which is an English support network for individuals with cancer, or with family members, friends, and co-workers suffering from cancer, or for care-givers. For this too is a challenge of expatriates: dealing with the illness of loved ones when you are far away.
Expatriation is a process that challenges one’s sense of well-being and mental health on an every- day level. Having support in getting through this process can make all the difference in being able to adjust and adapt to a new setting. From the start, ACCESS has known this, and today, a team of experienced, qualified counsellors are ready to help. Call or e-mail the ACCESS Helpdesk for the direct numbers of their on-call support. Or check the ACCESS website.