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Living abroad: how can you assess your mental health?

Mental health has been in the global spotlight in 2021, from attempts to understand the wider impact of the pandemic to sporting superstars withdrawing from prestigious competitions. 

Living abroad: how can you assess your mental health?
A woman feeling under stress at work. Photo: Getty Images

Competing as an elite athlete may seem far removed from your everyday working life. But the increasing willingness of many athletes, celebrities, and even royalty to talk openly about their personal mental health challenges has wider societal implications. 

After moving abroad, it can be difficult to deal simultaneously with an unfamiliar culture, different ways of doing things at work, and a new language. If you moved shortly before or even during the pandemic, things may have been even more challenging for you; you may have been working mainly from home with few chances to meet colleagues, and feeling the distance to family in your home country more than ever.

If you feel concerned about your mental health while living abroad or during an overseas assignment, what should you do? The Local has partnered with AXA – Global Healthcare to offer some guidance for individuals and examine why employers have a crucial role to play.

Working abroad? With AXA’s global health plans, you can speak to a psychologist from wherever you are in the world1

Making mental health a bigger priority

Depression affects more than 300 million people globally, with more than 260 million living with anxiety disorders2, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The cost to the global economy is around US$1 trillion each year. Furthermore, WHO says that mental health problems can “seriously exacerbate” physical illness. Despite the scale of the problem, countries spend less than two percent of their national health budgets on mental health on average, says WHO.

But are attitudes changing and will mental health eventually be given equal billing with physical health? The reasons for companies to make the mental health of their employees a top priority keep growing. 

Steps to take if you’re feeling low

Opening up about your mental health can be uncomfortable. If you’re feeling low, you may feel you just need to somehow carry on regardless. But it’s important to know that early intervention has proven more effective than trying to continue as feelings of stress or anxiety build up.

So, what should you do if you want to get a realistic assessment of your mental wellbeing? Rather than waiting for a crisis, you can turn to online tools, such as AXA’s LowMoodQuiz and AnxietyQuiz, to honestly assess your state of mind. Such tools are intended to help you as you deal with everyday stresses and strains, not only when a major event occurs.

A young man crying in his workplace. Photo: Getty Images

What if you know you’re struggling and feel the time has come to seek help? Here are three different ways you could start a meaningful conversation with your manager, according to AXA – Global Healthcare:

  1. Be proactive – look for opportunities to regularly check-in with your manager, whether through digital communications or telephone. Could you set aside 30 minutes at the start and end of each week to reflect on your achievements together and discuss any challenges? 
  2. Use a mood scale – actively and regularly reflecting on your mood can help you recognise and flag times when you might need support from your manager. Making use of online tools like the quizzes above could help you.
  3. Ask questions – encourage your manager to share details about the support available to help you maintain good mental health. Fearful of asking for help? You shouldn’t be. Do you have the option, for example, to speak confidentially to a trained professional, whether face-to-face or by phone or video chat?

Your employer’s role

AXA suggests managers can look out for signs that an employee could be struggling with their mental health. If you have a benefits package, your employer or manager could also share details of the support available through that, such as confidential ‘virtual therapy’ by phone or video call. As a global leader in health insurance, AXA has multiple levels of health cover to fit your needs, giving you access to local healthcare professionals and facilities.

If you’re a member with a global healthcare plan, you can use AXA’s Virtual Doctor service³ to confidentially discuss anything you like. If it’s mental health support you need, they’ll refer you to the Mind Health service, to speak to a fully qualified psychologist.

Find out more about how AXA – Global Healthcare can support you

1. The service provides you with up to 6 sessions with a psychologist, per mind health concern, per policy year. Available with a healthcare plan from AXA – Global Healthcare.

2. Research commissioned by AXA found that anxiety and depression were among the top health and wellbeing concerns for expats.

3. The Virtual Doctor and Mind Health services are provided by Advance Medical (a Teladoc Health company).

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and presented by AXA.

AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited. Registered in Ireland number 630468. Registered Office: Wolfe Tone House, Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin 1. AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited. Registered in England (No. 03039521). Registered Office: 20 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0BG, United Kingdom. AXA Global Healthcare (UK) Limited is authorised and regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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HEALTH INSURANCE

Why more than 20 million people in Germany face higher health insurance costs

Several German health insurance companies have raised their rates this year, pushing up the costs for customers.

Many people are facing higher health insurance contributions this year.
Many people are facing higher health insurance contributions this year. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Jan Woitas

According to a study by the comparison portal Check24, around 21 million people with statutory health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung or GKV) have had to pay higher contributions since the beginning of the year after several organisations raised their additional contributions. 

A total of 19 of the 97 statutory health insurance providers in Germany have increased their additional contributions, the comparison portal found.

It means more than a quarter of the 73 million people with statutory health insurance in Germany have to pay higher additional contributions. 

According to Check24, the higher additional contributions can cost an insured person in the most expensive case an extra €261 per year.

Among those to have raised their additional contributions include AOK Baden-Württemberg and AOK Bayern, which have both increased the additional contributions from 1.10 percent to 1.30 percent. Check24 has published the full list of additional contributions here.

Customers affected receive a letter in the post letting them know when their contributions are increasing. Health insurance providers justify raising their rates by pointing out rising costs in the health and care system. The pandemic has also put significant strain on providers. 

READ ALSO: How to make the most of reward schemes on your German health insurance

A total of 67 health insurance providers are keeping their individual additional contribution the same. And as many as 11 health insurance funds lowered their contributions – although most of these already had comparatively high rates.

In 2021, Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), the largest statutory health insurance fund in Germany with around 8.2 million members, raised its additional contribution significantly.

The contribution went up to 1.2 percent from 0.7 percent. Average earners saw additional monthly costs of about €10 extra, while self-employed people had to pay up to €288 more per year. 

TK has not raised its rates this year. 

Can you switch health insurance?

If your health insurance company increases the additional contribution, those insured have a special right of termination until January 31st, 2022.

They can apply for the change up until this date, and they will then become a member of the new health insurance provider from April 1st after the statutory two month change-over period has expired.

Insured people also have the right to change their statutory health insurance fund every 12 months.

The cost of public health insurance in Germany is a fixed salary percentage of 14.6 percent, while the reduced contribution rate for employees without entitlement to sick pay is 14.0 per cent.

Beyond that, however, health insurance providers set an additional contribution.

The contribution assessment ceiling for statutory health insurance (GKV) – up to which contributions are levied – remains unchanged at €58,050 per year in 2022, as in the previous year.

Check24 said that switching providers can save employees up to €624 per year depending on their income.

Self-employed people pay both the employee and employer contribution and can therefore save up to €1,248 euros per year by switching, the analysis found. 

However in a representative YouGov survey only 11 percent of respondents in Germany said they had recently changed their insurance provider or would do so in the foreseeable future.

Most of the benefits provided by statutory health insurance organisations are identical.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The three new services covered by German health insurance

However, there are some differences in the voluntary benefits, including dental health (professional dental cleaning and discounted dentures), vaccinations (flu vaccinations for under 60s and travel vaccinations), various cancer screening examinations and osteopathic treatments.

“In addition to the financial relief, insured people can also secure higher subsidies for professional dental cleaning or other additional benefits by switching,” said Dr Daniel Güssow, Managing Director of statutory health insurers at Check24.

Vocabulary 

Additional contributions (die) Zusatzbeiträge

Right of termination – (das) Kündigungsrecht 

Benefits (die) Leistungen

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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