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Living abroad: how can you assess your mental health?

Mental health has been in the global spotlight in 2021, from attempts to understand the wider impact of the pandemic to sporting superstars withdrawing from prestigious competitions. 

Living abroad: how can you assess your mental health?
A woman feeling under stress at work. Photo: Getty Images

Competing as an elite athlete may seem far removed from your everyday working life. But the increasing willingness of many athletes, celebrities, and even royalty to talk openly about their personal mental health challenges has wider societal implications. 

After moving abroad, it can be difficult to deal simultaneously with an unfamiliar culture, different ways of doing things at work, and a new language. If you moved shortly before or even during the pandemic, things may have been even more challenging for you; you may have been working mainly from home with few chances to meet colleagues, and feeling the distance to family in your home country more than ever.

If you feel concerned about your mental health while living abroad or during an overseas assignment, what should you do? The Local has partnered with AXA – Global Healthcare to offer some guidance for individuals and examine why employers have a crucial role to play.

Working abroad? With AXA’s global health plans, you can speak to a psychologist from wherever you are in the world1

Making mental health a bigger priority

Depression affects more than 300 million people globally, with more than 260 million living with anxiety disorders2, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The cost to the global economy is around US$1 trillion each year. Furthermore, WHO says that mental health problems can “seriously exacerbate” physical illness. Despite the scale of the problem, countries spend less than two percent of their national health budgets on mental health on average, says WHO.

But are attitudes changing and will mental health eventually be given equal billing with physical health? The reasons for companies to make the mental health of their employees a top priority keep growing. 

Steps to take if you’re feeling low

Opening up about your mental health can be uncomfortable. If you’re feeling low, you may feel you just need to somehow carry on regardless. But it’s important to know that early intervention has proven more effective than trying to continue as feelings of stress or anxiety build up.

So, what should you do if you want to get a realistic assessment of your mental wellbeing? Rather than waiting for a crisis, you can turn to online tools, such as AXA’s LowMoodQuiz and AnxietyQuiz, to honestly assess your state of mind. Such tools are intended to help you as you deal with everyday stresses and strains, not only when a major event occurs.

A young man crying in his workplace. Photo: Getty Images

What if you know you’re struggling and feel the time has come to seek help? Here are three different ways you could start a meaningful conversation with your manager, according to AXA – Global Healthcare:

  1. Be proactive – look for opportunities to regularly check-in with your manager, whether through digital communications or telephone. Could you set aside 30 minutes at the start and end of each week to reflect on your achievements together and discuss any challenges? 
  2. Use a mood scale – actively and regularly reflecting on your mood can help you recognise and flag times when you might need support from your manager. Making use of online tools like the quizzes above could help you.
  3. Ask questions – encourage your manager to share details about the support available to help you maintain good mental health. Fearful of asking for help? You shouldn’t be. Do you have the option, for example, to speak confidentially to a trained professional, whether face-to-face or by phone or video chat?

Your employer’s role

AXA suggests managers can look out for signs that an employee could be struggling with their mental health. If you have a benefits package, your employer or manager could also share details of the support available through that, such as confidential ‘virtual therapy’ by phone or video call. As a global leader in health insurance, AXA has multiple levels of health cover to fit your needs, giving you access to local healthcare professionals and facilities.

If you’re a member with a global healthcare plan, you can use AXA’s Virtual Doctor service³ to confidentially discuss anything you like. If it’s mental health support you need, they’ll refer you to the Mind Health service, to speak to a fully qualified psychologist.

Find out more about how AXA – Global Healthcare can support you

1. The service provides you with up to 6 sessions with a psychologist, per mind health concern, per policy year. Available with a healthcare plan from AXA – Global Healthcare.

2. Research commissioned by AXA found that anxiety and depression were among the top health and wellbeing concerns for expats.

3. The Virtual Doctor and Mind Health services are provided by Advance Medical (a Teladoc Health company).

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and presented by AXA.

AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited. Registered in Ireland number 630468. Registered Office: Wolfe Tone House, Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin 1. AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited. Registered in England (No. 03039521). Registered Office: 20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG, United Kingdom. AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Lost and found: where to look for your ‘missing’ items in Switzerland

In Switzerland, like in other countries, people sometimes lose their belongings in various places. Many ultimately find their way to their rightful owner.

Lost and found: where to look for your ‘missing’ items in Switzerland

Unlike socks that disappear in the wash, never to see the light of day again (which is a global, rather than just Swiss phenomenon), many lost items often do reappear. 

The bigger the item is, the more chance there is of it being found.

But even smaller objects like keys are often returned to their owners — it all depends on who finds them and to what lengths these people are willing to go to ensure that lost items are returned to their owners.

(Human nature being what is it is, you have more chances of being reunited your keys than with your jewellery or a wallet that still has all its contents inside).

But you may be surprised to learn that cases of exemplary honesty still exist.

One such example, in 2022, involved an envelope containing 20,000 francs found lying on a sidewalk by passersby and returned to the man who dropped it while getting into his car. 

What are some of the more unusual things people leave behind?

Each year, Uber Switzerland publishes a list of things that passengers forget in cars. 

This year, among purses, cell phones, laptop computers, umbrellas, and pieces of jewellery, drivers found in the back seats items including a purple wig, carnival mask, coffee machine, and a spatula for crêpes.

The items found on trains are even stranger. 

They include, according to the national railway company SBB, taxidermy animals, an authentic samurai sword, and a prosthetic leg (it’s not clear whether this was a spare or whether the passenger had to hop off the train).

Where should you look for the items you lose in Switzerland?

It depends on where you think, or know, you left your belongings.

Public transport

If it’s on the train, file a lost property report here

For the PostBus, it’s here

Additionally, public transport companies in your community have their own ‘lost and found’ offices, as do local police stations.

Airports

Zurich 
Geneva 
Basel 

Additionally, to maximise your chances of being reunited with your lost property, report it here.

Through this site, you can also check whether your lost item has been found and handed in at one of the offices.

If your lost item is found, must you pay a ‘finder’s fee’?

Yes, Swiss legislation says so.

No exact amounts are specified, but “the reward should be appropriate in relation to the find,” according to Moneyland consumer platform.

In principle, “a finder’s fee equal to 10 percent of the amount returned to the owner is considered an appropriate reward.” 

Also, if the process of finding out who the lost object belongs to and returning it to you generates extra expenses for the finder (such as train fare or other travel costs, for example), you have to reimburse these expenses in addition to the reward.

(By the same token, if you find and return someone else’s belongings, you can expect the same compensation).

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