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Travel represents an opportunity for rest and relaxation or a chance for exciting exploration of other countries and cultures. However travel is also very stressful, not just in the planning stages but also during the journey itself and adapting to a new environment on arrival.

Consideration of the mental wellbeing of travellers is as important as their physical health.

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Prepare for disruption

Travelling can be time consuming, disruptive and stressful. Long delays at airport, interrogation at immigration desks and lengthy journeys can instantly add anxiety and low mood.

Ensure that your journeys are well thought our and that any disruptions or challenging situations have been considered and planned our in advance.  Tiredness and lack of sleep can easily make things worse.

The culture of the country you are travelling may be very different to what you are used to. Culture shock, language barriers, loneliness, disruption to daily routine and unfamiliar scenarios can intensify stress rather than ease it.

Fear of flying

Fear of flying can exacerbate existing mental health problems. Keep an eye out next week for our blog article on fear of flying! Alternatively many airlines offer specialised courses which might help combat the fear.

Do your research

Attitudes to mental illness vary greatly between different countries. In many countries severe stigma and discrimination exist. Please be aware that in your destination country the support you receive in the UK may not be available.

If you’re volunteering or travelling to an area which is politically unstable or war-torn then be prepared for situations which may be traumatic or upsetting. Scenarios which may be shocking to you, may be every day life for some: the support you might normally expect may not be available to you.

The UK Government “Know Before You Go” website is a useful resource in helping you prepare.

Medications

Ensure you have adequate supplies of your medication to travel with. Access to mental health services and medication may be limited. Some medications are not available in other countries (for example, antidepressants). This might be challenging where you do not have adequate supplies or medication is lost or stolen.

You should also be aware that certain medications, including narcotics and psychotropics may be restricted or banned in your destination country. Certain medications may require you to have a doctors note (for example, morphine, codeine, diazepam).You can find out this information from the embassy of the country you are travelling to.

Always ensure you carry medication in the packaging or container provided by the pharmacy and that it the labelling has your name on it.

Insurance

It is vital that you have adequate travel insurance for any trip and that your policy specifically covers mental health conditions. It is important you declare your condition to the insurance company if asked to do so when you apply for your cover.

It is useful to determine how to access medical facilities, including mental health support during your travels.

Further reading

    1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mental-health – some excellent booklets
    2. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/foreign-travel-advice-for-people-with-mental-health-issues
    3. https://www.iamat.org/elibrary
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