“Mind how you go” when travelling abroad
The FCO highlights guidance to travellers with mental health needs as cases involving British nationals rise by almost 50% in five years*
Ahead of World Mental Health Day on 10 October, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is teaming up with the Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness of how British nationals with mental health needs can prepare before travelling overseas, and how the FCO can help should travellers experience difficulties.
From 2009/10 to 2014/15 the number of British nationals with mental health needs requiring help from the FCO increased by 48% globally, making this an area of increasing focus.
Georgina Hollingsworth, Consular Social Work Advisor at the FCO, said:
With one in four people in any given year expected to experience a mental health problem, it isn’t surprising that we have seen an increase in the number of people the Foreign Office is supporting overseas. We have been working hard to ensure our staff are better able to understand common mental health needs and recognise signs and symptoms, but we also want to ensure that travellers are aware of steps they can take themselves to help ensure trouble-free travel abroad.
A trip overseas can be immensely enjoyable, but it can also be challenging. Simple steps such as adequately researching your destination can make all the difference, as well as understanding how the FCO can help if you do run into problems. So have a look at our advice, mind how you go and, most importantly, have a fantastic trip.
While mental health needs can vary significantly, there are a number of steps people can take before and during foreign travel to help ensure a trouble-free trip:
- take out travel insurance before you go and check your policy covers any pre-existing mental health conditions; if travelling in the European Economic Area take a valid European Health Insurance Card too
- if you take medication, check it is legal and available in your destination and make sure you take enough for your trip (plus some extra to cover any unexpected delays)
- check what mental health services are available in the country and destination you are visiting
- consider who you would contact if your mental health deteriorated while abroad, and ensure you have means of contacting them in an emergency
- research your destination and check the FCO travel advice for the country you are visiting
- leave copies of your travel documents and itinerary with friends, family or a trusted person
- be aware of how the FCO can help if you run into difficulties overseas
Travellers can find more information and advice in the FCO’s leaflet, ‘Mental Health: Travelling Abroad’.
The leaflet has been updated after gathering feedback from a range of people with mental health needs and organisations that specialise in mental health support.
Jenny Edwards, CEO 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.
What help can the FCO provide to people with mental health needs who are travelling abroad?
|The FCO can:||The FCO cannot:|
|Listen to you and help you look at your options||Give you medical advice|
|Help you contact friends, family and/or carers if you want to||Buy or supply medication|
|Visit you in hospital or prison and, where possible, prioritise the visit||Withhold or remove a passport|
|Raise any concerns about your treatment or welfare with the responsible authority (such as a prison or hospital)||Stop you from travelling abroad|
|Help medical staff overseas contact medical staff in the UK who may be able to provide advice on your medical history||Require you to return to the UK|
|Give information about local medication suppliers||Pay for you to return to the UK|
|Be available, as appropriate, to offer you assistance if you choose to remain overseas||Pay for food, accommodation or medical bills|
|Offer information to help you make an informed decision about returning to the UK, if you plan to do so||Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people|
|Liaise with your travel representative or travel insurance company, if you want us to||Help you enter a country if you do not have a valid passport or necessary visas|
|Issue you with an emergency travel document||Give you legal advice or translate documents|
|Provide information about transferring money||Investigate crimes or get you out of prison|
|Provide help if you have suffered rape or serious sexual or physical assault or are a victim of crime|
|Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors|
*Figures from Helping British Nationals Abroad 2014/15. There were 499 consular cases involving British nationals with mental health needs in 2014/15.
If you would like further information about this press release please contact 0207 781 2342 or ForeignandCommonwealthOffice@consolidatedpr.com.
The FCO ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign targets a number of audiences, from gap year students to package holidaymakers; sports fans to older travellers and people visiting friends and family abroad. The campaign works with more than 400 travel industry partners to communicate its messages. For more information visit our Know Before You Go page.
If you have any enquiries for FCO consular staff before you go or while abroad you can use the FCO’s Twitter service @FCOtravel. This adds to the ways that British people travelling or living overseas can already get in touch with the FCO: by emailing our travel advice team or contacting local consular staff.