Around 1 in every 4 people living in the UK will suffer some sort of mental health issue each year, ranging from a mild depression which passes in a few days, to a much more serious problem requiring hospital admission and treatment. Most travellers to Europe know that EHIC is there to help them get state medical treatment across the European Economic Area on the same basis as local people, but does this extend to mental health treatments too? And if so, what is provision like across Europe?
Are you more likely to suffer a mental health relapse overseas?
Travel can be tiring and stressful. If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t cope well with change, or if you become physically ill when overseas, this can increase the chances of suffering from a mental health problem too. It’s wise to plan any trips carefully, and make sure you have people with you who can help with tricky situations, and more importantly, pick up the signs that your health may be deteriorating.
Insurance Might Not Cover You
Even if you’ve paid top dollar for your travel insurance, you may not be covered if you suffer a mental health problem while travelling in Europe as most mental health conditions will fall under the “pre-existing medical condition” exemption. If you do suffer from a mental health condition, you must declare this when taking out insurance, and may be asked to pay more to cover your condition. The last thing you want to be doing when struggling with your mental health is to be in a protracted argument with your insurance company, so take some time to arrange and fully understand your cover before leaving home.
Mental health provision varies enormously between the different European countries, so it’s worth doing your research before you leave home. Countries such as Germany and the Scandinavian countries are world leaders in identifying and treating mental health problems, and anyone seeking help in those countries will be treated with compassion and dignity. The further south and east you travel in Europe the worse the provision appears to be; in Greece for example there are only 3 nurses working in mental health per 100,000 population compared with 163 in Finland. Many countries in Europe are not as far along the mental health treatment path as we are here in the UK, and psychiatric hospitals are still seen as a place to lock people away rather than to treat them. That’s why proper travel insurance is so important – it will pay to get you home to the UK to be treated in familiar surroundings.
Licenced medication rules vary across Europe, and you shouldn’t assume that the medication you take will be available everywhere in Europe. It’s always wise to keep your medication in its original packaging, and take a copy of the prescription with you. Do some research online to see what the rules are regarding the drugs you are taking with you to Europe. A letter from a doctor might be required in certain circumstances.