Last year I wrote a post that has been read again and again and again…..barely a day goes by when it, or another on the same subject, doesn’t get looked at. When I wrote the post I don’t think I had any idea what a big topic this was. I almost didn’t write it at all, it was actually a bit of a last-minute thing prompted by a link someone had put on my Facebook page.
What was this post about? Expat depression. And since writing that post, I have realised just what a neglected subject this is.
Time to Talk
The original post was called Depression and the Expat Life: Something we Don’t Talk About Enough. I wrote it to mark the 2015 Time to Talk campaign – a UK campaign that encourages us all to talk to someone about mental health. Today is the 2016 Time to Talk day and this seems like the perfect time to launch my new series on expat depression. The campaign is about de-stigmatising mental health issues, and in my original post I set out to highlight how this was something that we needed to do within the expat world where these issues can really be a big problem.
That post has been read many times since I wrote it, not because I have a huge following but because a lot of people find it by searching under the term “expat depression” or something similar. The more I realised this was happening, the more I realised I needed to write more about this important subject.
Interview with a professional
Due to the pressures of finishing and publishing my book the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide (which includes a chapter on culture shock and depression), and then moving to South Africa, it took me a while to get back to this. Eventually though I was contacted by an expert on the subject – Anita Colombara, who is mental health specialist with a particular interest in the international community. Anita agreed to be interviewed for my blog and to fill in some of the gaps I had about depression in the expat community. The information she was able to give me was excellent, really good practical stuff that I hope will help a lot of people.
But although the reaction to Anita’s interview was great, with lots of views and lots of feedback, I still knew there were plenty of people out there that I wasn’t reaching. So I decided to tackle this subject properly. Following the same format as I used to write the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, I felt that the best way to do this would be to share real-life stories, experiences, tips and advice. Often, just knowing you are not alone can help. So I set up a survey and watched as the answers came in.
In the end, I had pages and pages of material. Some of the answers were one-liners, some were out-pourings. I was awed that people were willing to share so much, convinced the more I read how important it was that I did this.
It is important though to point out that I am not a medical professional, a therapist or a counsellor. My role here is as a writer and blogger, as well as an expat. I am not the one who can tell you what to do or how to cope. I can only do what I have been doing ever since I wrote my book which is to share the experiences of myself and of others. By doing this I genuinely hope I will help others – by making them realise they are not alone, things will get easier, that they should seek help, that they should talk to someone, how they can help themselves, where they can get help from…..
As I am not the expert I decided to call on the assistance of a professional to ensure that what is published stays within the remit of being responsible. So for this reason I have asked Anita to be part of this series. I have asked her to read each post before it is published and to contribute if she thinks it would be helpful. Many people pointed out as I asked for help with the survey that there was a difference between clinical and situational depression, and that the responses to each could be quite different. I want to explore these differences and I want to ensure that anyone who thinks they need help knows where to at least start trying to find it.
So today, Time to Talk day, I launch this new series on expat depression as a way to hopefully help everyone out there who is suffering from one of the unspoken sides of expat life. I hope to post weekly and will include when and why depression is most likely to hit, how it manifests itself, the link between culture shock and depression and the ways people have found to help themselves. Later I will also talk about how to help others – including partners.
I hope many people will find these posts useful; even if you yourself don’t think this is something you need to know about please share as you see appropriate as only by reaching as many people as possible will I feel I have started to do what I set out to do. I look forward to your comments and feedback.
Photo credit: ashley rose