Yes, You Can Travel for Work With a Mental Illness
December 5, 2018 Kristance Harlow
The most invisible and stigmatized of all health issues are mental illnesses. It’s fucked up, but disclosing a mental illness while looking for a job can impact your chances of getting hired. It might be illegal (depending on where you live), but so many people in this world are ignorant. Companies may find some other point of contention to deny access to opportunities, thereby protecting themselves against claims of discrimination.
It isn’t all bad. According to Mercury News, those who have discussed their situation openly at work have reported feeling empowered by the experience. They cite the experience as a catalyst for being more able to “achieve personal and professional goals.”
There is a growing movement to end mental health discrimination in the workplace, but it requires the work of everyone. Visit the website stigmaandempowerment.org for further research and advice on the pros and cons of “coming out” of the “disease and disability closet.”
Many people with mental illnesses have jobs and many are frequent business travelers. Others may experience their first symptoms or even their first major episode during travels. People without known pre-existing conditions can have a mental health disorder emerge during travel.
According to the World Health Organization, “mental health issues are among the leading causes of ill health among travellers, and ‘psychiatric emergency’ is one of the most common medical reasons for air evacuation.” The stress brought on by international travel can have significant impact on the psyche. As described by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, short-term travel causes the least amount of stress while expatriates and frequent travelers experience the highest levels of stress.
Statistics presented by the U.S. Travel Association say that 46 percent of business travelers are between the ages of 45 and 64. Past studies have found that the number of middle-aged women suffering from mental health issues increased by 20 percent between 1996 and 2009. On top of that, women report feeling the effects of mental health stigma more strongly than men do. It is a potent mixture for women who are business travelers.
The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers has multiple “Travel Mental Health Checklists” that travelers can print out and use for guidance during before, during, and after a trip. Different disorders require different considerations and it is worth the extra time to be prepared.
Since stress is a major factor in the increasing rate of mental disorders, keeping stress at bay should be a number one priority. We all need to put self-care on the top of our agendas. Taking the appropriate steps to prevent stress is essential, and it requires putting the office away and taking time to be mindful.
Jessie Lucas, a health and fitness expert, advises, “It is easy to put other people’s priorities up front which can leave us overextended. When we prioritize our own self-care this not only keeps us stress, free, healthy and happy, it is refreshing to others: our families don’t have to worry as much because they know we are taking care of ourselves, we are more productive at our tasks at hand during travel which is more satisfying to ourselves and those we are working with.”
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