Mental health travel advisory

A travelling worker suffering in a lonely hotel room.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK – a time for individuals and employers to take stock of progress that has been made over the past year in terms of supporting those with mental health issues and making plans to improve. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression continue to rise steeply among the population, not just of the UK, but of other countries, so any further attention that can be drawn to this epidemic is welcome.

As part of awareness raising activities, the in-house medical team of Anvil Group has released a travel advisory aimed at business travellers, in the hope of helping them to manage their mental health more effectively when overseas for work purposes.

“Mental health encompasses an individual’s total emotional, psychological and social wellbeing; their resilience in challenging situations and their ability to cope,” Anvil explains. “It is not uncommon to feel in low mood, sad, anxious or overwhelmed by emotion at certain times. To some extent these feelings are perfectly normal. However, if such feelings are affecting an individual’s day-to-day life over a prolonged period of time, it can be distressing and isolating.”

Anvil offers some approaches that can be taken to alleviating stress, including keeping a diary in order to identify and hopefully avoid stressful situations; talking to colleagues, friends or loved ones; and engaging in physical exercise or relaxing activities such as meditation. Anxiety, it suggests, can be addressed via talking therapies or perhaps by using apps or books, and while medication is an option, it should be discussed thoroughly with a doctor. Similarly, those suffering from depression should talk to their doctor, or try similar coping strategies as suggested for those with anxiety – excessive consumption of alcohol and recreational drugs should be avoided at all costs, while certain herbal remedies could alleviate symptoms. Sometimes, however, medical intervention is the only option.

More generally, travellers are advised to plan ahead, ensure that they catch up on any missed sleep (and try to maintain a regular sleep pattern), stay hydrated, socialise where possible rather than staying isolated, prepare for culture shock by learning about their destination, pack sufficient quantities of any medication they may need, and perhaps put a few wellbeing apps on their phone before travelling, in case they require them while on assignment.

These strategies are all well and good, and travellers should certainly be proactive with regards to looking after themselves mentally. However, it is also part of the employers’ duty of care to make sure that their travelling employees’ health, be it physical or mental, is looked after. ITIJ hopes that employers are taking the opportunity this week to evaluate their processes and ensure that their workers benefit from the best care possible.