The UK Foreign Office is offering detailed advice to British citizens living in Spain on how to prepare for visits by friends or family members who have mental health issues.
The advice stems from a joint campaign with the UK’s Mental Health Foundation that aims to raise awareness of how British nationals with mental health needs can prepare before travelling overseas, and is part of World Mental Health Day on 10 October. British Consulates in Spain handled 67 cases involving mental health needs in 2014/15.
Will Middleton, Consular Regional Director for Spain, said: “Staff at our consulates in Spain are seeing more cases involving mental health. A deterioration in mental health whilst visiting a foreign country can cause considerable distress, both to the person concerned and to family and friends in Spain, as well as back in the UK.
“So if you have a guest who has mental health needs, do take some simple steps to help ensure their visit is trouble-free and enjoyable for all concerned.”
If you are hosting a friend or family member with a mental health condition, you can:
- Ask if your visitor has taken out travel insurance and whether the policy covers any pre-existing mental health conditions, and has a valid European Health Insurance Card (visit www.ehic.org.uk for more information)
- If the visitor is on medication, check what they are taking and the normal dosage, and ask them to bring enough for their visit plus some extra to cover any unexpected delays
- Whilst they are with you, encourage your visitor to continue to take their medication even if – as sometimes happens – they are feeling better because they are on holiday
- Be aware that English language help for people with mental health issues may be limited in your area and that the approach of health authorities may be different to the UK. You may want to find out what support is available locally, in case you need it
- Consider who you would contact if your guest’s mental health deteriorates while in Spain, and ensure you can contact them in an emergency
- Make sure your own passport is valid and in a safe place, in case you need to travel in an emergency
Jenny Edwards, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Many people in the UK with mental health conditions manage them well day to day. However, there are a few extra things to consider when travelling abroad. Check your travel insurance covers pre-existing mental health conditions before travelling and make sure that your medication is legal, available, and sufficient for your trip.
“Changes to your itinerary or a delayed flight could impact your mental health needs so it is important to travel prepared – pack medication in your hand luggage and keep a record of your mental health contacts in the UK in case you need to reach them. Research your travel destination and locate the local mental health services for that country. By following these simple steps, a relaxing trip can be easily enjoyed.”
For more information about foreign travel and mental health, visit www.gov.uk/fco/mental-health-abroad. You can also view the FCO ‘Mental Health: Travelling Abroad’ leaflet and travel checklist on www.gov.uk.