Traveling away from home, especially for an extended stay, can have mild to severe effects on a person's mental health. An added stressor is that of assimilating into a new culture and learning how to function in a foreign environment. Students should identify how they care for themselves while they are home so that they can develop a specific self-care plan while abroad. They should also become more sensitive to their mental and emotional states so that they can avoid engaging in risky behaviors that could lead to dangerous situations.
For example, a student has been seeing a therapist in San Luis Obispo once a week for the entire summer. They have also been prescribed antidepressants by a local psychiatrist to be taken daily. In preparing for their trip, they do not consider the continued maintenance of their mental health and do not make any plans. They arrive abroad and their mental health worsens due to their lack of regular therapy and because they ran out of their prescription. This leads them to engage in regular binge drinking and casual sex with various partners on campus. This individual is at a higher risk of experiencing gender-based violence or other dangerous circumstances.
Personal health and wellbeing maintenance is key to having positive experiences while abroad. A step that can be taken and is encouraged for anyone wishing to maintain their health abroad is asking for a referral or researching mental health specialists in their area. Although mental health care can be treated differently abroad, it is important to seek out possibilities for continued treatment. This could also include exploring options for Skype or phone sessions with the therapist back home, seeking out group therapy, or even developing a maintenance plan with the therapist at home while away. Other implications of mental health abroad includes increasing self-awareness of mental states and healthy stress reduction. Traveling is a stressful experience! If these stressors are not addressed in a healthy manner, an individual may be prone to engage in risky behavior and be easily susceptible to dangerous experiences.