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ees heading overseas and their spouses
to develop resilience. (These include
“MQ500: Encouraging Resilience in
FS Children” and “MQ803: Realities of
Foreign Service Life.”) This is a posi-
tive step, for making employees and
family members aware of emotional
factors and stressors a transition abroad
may trigger will help them manage is-
sues when they arise.
Instituting pre-departure emotional
health checks, and subsequent regular
examinations by independent thera-
pists hired by sponsoring agencies,
would engage Foreign Service families
and other expatriates and encourage
them to seek help as needed. But
breaking down the entrenched stigma,
the “tough it out” mentality expats so
often exhibit, has to come first.
“I grew so weary of hearing people
say ‘we’re fine, we’re fine’, when they
aren’t fine,” laments Robin Pascoe,
the author of several books on expa-
triate life. She points out that in many
overseas communities, expatriates
silently battle anxiety and depression
on their own even when mental
health support services are available.
Expat culture often makes that
critical step more difficult than it
should be. But, as Pascoe comments,
“Sponsoring agencies can make it
much easier, either by offsetting the
costs of therapy, or making rigid con-
fidentiality agreements so that expats
feel safe using a therapist. And the
sponsoring agencies need to get lots
and lots of information about available
services out to their overseas employ-
ees and families as often as possible,
not just in pre-departure trainings.”
You Are Not Alone
Slowly, the barriers around talking
about mental health and the emo-
tional issues faced by expats are com-
ing down. But agencies that send
people abroad still need to do more to
ensure that employees and their fam-
ilies are offered appropriate care, pri-
vately and conveniently.
Encouragingly, State recently
began tracking mental health medical
evacuations, and calculates that about
two-thirds of officers who receive
mental health treatment return to
44
F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 2
An individual’s
response to moving
abroad may change
over time, or vary from
post to post.