World Mental Health Day has been held every year on the 10th October to raise awareness and shine the spotlight on mental health. It was first celebrated in 1992, and the aim is to bring attention to mental health and how it can affect people both in our own country, and those around the globe.

Mental health needs can take many forms, with a quarter of the British population experiencing some form of difficulties in the course of a year. Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common diagnosis, with up to 12% of people experiencing depression.

Clearly, these issues affect a substantial proportion of British people, and it’s likely we ourselves have experienced them, or know someone who may have. Those with mental health needs may feel isolated and alone, when the reality is quite different.

Mental health and travel

Travel can be one of the most liberating and exhilarating experiences. It’s usually a time for rest and relaxation, or enjoying hobbies and getting outdoors. It can be as good for the body as it is for the mind.

But travelling with a mental health condition can have an impact on psychological health. Travellers will be separated from the familiar, they may feel anxious about flying, or the impact of a foreign land or language can cause stress. So here are a few ways to ease the worries before travelling and while on holiday.

Be prepared
If you feel anxious, try and do as much research about everything from the plane you’ll be flying on to the location of the medical facilities at the airport. You’ll find the more you know about your upcoming trip the more comfortable you’re likely to feel. Always inform cabin crew if you’re a nervous traveller, as most are able to offer assistance and a friendly face if you need them.

Choose easy travel
Try to limit stopovers and connecting flights, and use the most direct route possible. This will mean you can rest easily while you travel. Unless you are used to flying long distances, choose a location with a manageable flight time. Arrange transport from the airport or train station to your accommodation from the UK too.

Speak to your doctor
If you’re on medication it may be necessary to get this arranged well before you travel and create a plan based on your new time zone. You’ll need enough medication for your trip and a bit extra in case any is misplaced. Some countries have restrictions on certain medications, you GP should be able to advise further. They may also be able to suggest calming tips and how to deal with anxiety.

Get covered
Travel insurance for mental health issues can provide extra reassurance knowing you’ll be covered if you need it. AllClear provides specialist insurance for travellers with pre-existing medical conditions, and our medical screening process enables travellers to find the right cover for them. This means that you don’t have to worry about losing your suitcase or falling ill abroad, as with the right cover for your needs, you’ll have everything taken care of.

Be reassured
The FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) provides support and assistance to British nationals encountering difficulties overseas, so ensure you have the contact details of the relevant British Embassy or Consulate. For example, they can help you to contact friends and family in the UK if needed. They’ve created a handy Know Before You Go guide specifically about travelling overseas with mental health needs, which provides further information and advice. Keep a note of a mental health professional you can contact in case of an emergency, too.

Georgina Hollingsworth, the FCO’s Social Work Adviser, has this to say about travelling abroad with mental health needs:

“Travelling abroad for holiday or work can be stressful enough, but for people with mental health needs it can cause their health to suffer. FCO consular staff have provided assistance to a growing number of customers with mental health needs in recent years, and although not all cases are preventable, there are a few simple steps that travellers can take to help avoid getting into difficulties when abroad.

Checking that travel insurance policies cover individual mental health issues, researching destinations to find out what mental health facilities are available and taking enough medication to last the whole trip, should all form part of the preparation before departing.”