On mental health and living abroad

Every year, a large number of Indians leave their country for the first time and move to a different country.
Some of the most common reasons being higher education, job or to live together with their partners. Getting
used to a new culture is not always easy and requires time. Being far away from those who have cared for
and supported us can seem daunting. At the same time, it is very exciting to have this opportunity to
experience a new culture and travel to new places.

This change comes with new challenges, you could experience health problems due to the cold climate or
mental health problems due to various reasons. You will miss the ?Sun? in winter, but also have the child spirit
within you rekindled with the first ?snowfall?. Here are a few challenges listed out, so that you know that you are
not alone if you face them. There are ?numerous? reasons/triggers for depression, it is ?not? to say that the
following are the only ones.

Many of us who move to Austria for a Master’s or directly for a PhD could find the course work very
challenging due to the style / syllabus of the course being different from the ones we are used to. Being the
only Indian / international student in a particular course can also lead to low morale.
It is often easy to forget that the mountain we have to climb to complete a course can be much higher and
steeper than for those with a European education (due to a change in the education system). These could be
triggers for anxiety and depression for those who come from high achieving families or have very high
academic standards (always being toppers etc). There could be other direct/ indirect pressures as well.
There might be similar challenges at your workplace where your colleague has much better
programming/math skills. It is important to maintain a positive attitude and remember that it is never too late to
learn new skills.

Other challenges
There are a lot of individuals who might be facing abuse in different forms, domestic abuse, abuse at
workplace etc. It is not easy for these individuals to open up to someone else and seek help. Especially if the
immediate family and friend circle is not supportive of therapy.
Mental health awareness
In many countries, including India, speaking about mental health issues is a big taboo. There is a lot of shame
associated with it. As this article points out
(https://thefemalescientist.com/guide/teresa-ambrosio/1836/the-side-effect-of-academic-life-how-to-deal-withdepression-and-anxiety/), even in Italy, the idea of counselling is associated to madness and psychosis.
Being aware and speaking about mental health is important?.
A lot of people often don’t recognize or realize that ?others? might be going through something. Having this
constant realization can help one be gentler with their interactions with others, and helping them share their
concerns without the fear of judgement.

Here are a few thoughts and pointers on this issue.
1. Many individuals ?don’t even recognize? that they might be going through depression and for many
Indians?, it takes ?even longer to admit? to themselves and others that they might be depressed.

2. Even if an individual recognizes that they are going through depression, ?asking for help does not
come easily?. Often, people tend to shut themselves up, cut off communication and even if they gather
up the courage to contact someone they feel close to, it often happens that the others might not be
available and then ?it seems like just too much effort ?to try contacting someone to share their

3. Having a ?good support system? can really help speed up the recovery process for individuals going
through depression. It is therefore very important that the person going through depression has at
least 2-4 confidants with whom they feel comfortable sharing their problems. Their confidants might be
able to :
a. Help them seek ?counselling/therapy?, encourage to continue or change the therapist
depending on how the person feels after therapy sessions (there are many bad therapists and
we must be wary of them, but not forget that good therapists exist as well).
b. Help deal with the family and at least try to make them understand what their family member
might be needing at that moment ( Ex- making them understand why the person might be
needing a break or need home care).

4. Recognize that having the ?will to get better soon? and working towards it is very important. Like any
other problem, the solution to this ?requires effort?.

5. Taking ?medicines is not always bad? and I have seen people get better with it (of course we should
be careful of over-prescription of medication).

6. Here is the link for suicide prevention:

7. This is the link for counsellors at JKU University.

8. You are always welcome to contact team IIL if you need help with speaking in German to fix
appointments with doctors (often, even if the doctor speaks english, the secretaries don’t).
Mental health problems are as real an issue as physical health problems.? We should not be ashamed of
seeking help and be willing to help those who need it.

In fact, for many individuals, ?mental stress manifests itself in the form of physical health issues as well
(think about how you feel slightly nauseous before a nervous situation like an interview etc). I went to a
therapist to try figuring out if I could help one of my physical health problems by better managing stress. Just
like we can visit a doctor when we see slight symptoms of a physical problem, we can visit a therapist even if
we are not severely depressed (again: we must be wary of bad therapists).
So I kindly request you to be aware of this problem, try to educate yourself more about it (how you can help
support someone) and ?create a safe space? among your friend groups to openly discuss this. We may never
know when someone is going through depression. There are often no visible signs of it.
While we must remember that ?we are not responsible for anyone’s actions?, we can try to help how much
ever we can. These incidents can occur despite all the help, but ?more awareness? about mental health can
definitely ?help prevent? many severe cases of depression.