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S P E C I A L FE ATUR E Many expats have had to navigate the challenges of the pandemic away from support networks CARING FOR THE CREW Caring for the mental health of employees on overseas assignments rose higher up the agenda for businesses during the pandemic. FIDI Focus speaks to Dr Katia Vlachos about why expat wellbeing is more important than ever FIDI Focus: Why have expat mental health issues become a focus for businesses? Katia Vlachos: Awareness of the extent to which expats face mental health issues has significantly increased in the past decade. A recent survey by health care provider William-Russell (https://www.william-russell.com/blog/ how-has-covid-affected-mental-health-awarenessfor-expats-research/)found that about one in four of the expats surveyed (25 per cent) reported the overall effect of living and working abroad as either negative or significantly negative. An earlier survey of globally mobile individuals by DR KATIA VLACHOS Dr Katia Vlachos is a certified co-active coach, supporting her globally mobile clients as they navigate transitions, including international moves, career change, reinvention and identity issues, and design a thriving life abroad. She is the author of A Great Move: Surviving and Thriving in Your Expat Assignment. An expat for the past 25 years, she has lived in eight cities, seven countries and three continents so far. 48 FF303 Sept_Nov 21 pp48-49 Katia Vlachos.indd 48 health benefits provider Aetna International highlighted a substantial increase in mental health claims around the world between 2014 and 2016 with the largest increase in Europe (33 per cent), followed by the Middle East and Africa (28 per cent), the Americas (26 per cent) and Southeast Asia (19 per cent). Depression emerged as the most prevalent condition (50 per cent increase), followed by anxiety (28 per cent). Finally, a 2011-2012 survey comparing American expats with their US-based counterparts found that the former group has a 2.5 times higher risk of suffering from anxiety and depression than the latter. These numbers are hard to ignore. The pandemic has, of course, made things worse for everyone, and especially for expats. According to the William-Russell survey, more than a third of expat participants reported a decline in their mental health because of the coronavirus crisis; 12 per cent said that their mental health had got significantly worse. It should come as no surprise that expats have faced mental health challenges, particularly in recent months. They have had to navigate the challenges of a pandemic away from their support networks. Restrictions on travel and socialising have left them isolated, unable to build a social circle or to explore and feel at home in their new host countries. Dealing with a situation thats WWW. F I D I FOC U S . OR G 14/09/2021 16:23