While setting up home in a new place is full of excitement and adventure, it can also bring with it a lot of stress and emotional upheaval for expats. Adjusting to a new culture, making friends, as well as helping the kids settle into new schools and routines can take its toll on family members. If you or anyone in your family is feeling overwhelmed and struggling to cope there are a number of places to seek help. We spoke to professionals from five counselling services about common issues expats face and treatment options available.
Dr Quratulain Zaidi
HongKong is sometimes called the marriage graveyard? Well, there are many factors in Hong Kong that can put pressure on a marriage. Jobs for expats can be extremely demanding and working spouses may be irritable and preoccupied, or suffer from stress-related problems, such as disturbed sleep and fatigue. This can lead to tension and cause arguments between couples. High-powered jobs can also create an inflated sense of entitlement, and business socialising can offer temptation for extra-marital affairs. Meanwhile, the trailing spouse may be dealing with resentment about career sacrifices made for their spouse. It’s important that individuals’ feelings and emotions do not get pushed aside for more functional needs. Don’t underestimate the power of spending time with your partner. It’s also helpful to talk about how to safeguard your marriage if this city’s temptations come your way.
Mind N Life
Suite 1202, Chinachem Hollywood Centre, 1 Hollywood Road, Central
2521 4668 | mindnlife.com
Mental health practitioner
Postnatal depression is common, affecting up to 1 in 10 women. Onset is any time within a year of giving birth and is not just due to hormones. Having a baby as an expat can add another level of emotions to the experience of a newborn. Persistent low mood, tearfulness, anxiety, insomnia, loss of enjoyment, indecisiveness, withdrawal from baby and others are typical and distinct from ‘baby blues’; occurring soon after birth. Frightening ideas of hurting the baby or suicide necessitate urgent professional help. Counselling, guided self-help and cognitive behaviour therapy can provide valuable support, treat symptoms and reduce risk of recurrence. In more severe cases, a doctor can determine if a course of antidepressant is needed.
Dr Lauren Bramley & Partners
9/F, Pacific House, Queen’s Road, Central
2877 6068 | laurenbramleymd.com
Child behavioural issues
Dr Doug Seiden
Expat children suddenly find themselves transported to a new world, without friends or the familiarity that builds a sense of security. This loss can be compounded by the stress of adjusting to new environments. Culture shock in children can involve sadness, anxiety, irritability, regression and acting out, or more serious reactions sometimes termed “expat child syndrome”. When tried and trusted parenting skills stop working, a therapist may be able to provide advice on how you can help your child adjust, child therapy to increase problem-solving or emotional regulation skills, family counselling, or a helpful combination of these.
The Jadis Blurton Family Development Center
19/F, Kennedy Town Center, 23 Belcher’s Street, Kennedy Town
2869 1962 | blurton-fdc.com
Isolation and loneliness
Psychotherapist/Psychometrist/Coaching Psychologist & Supervisor
Expats are distanced from traditional support systems, and can find that new friendships, especially given the frequent movement of expats, can be superficial or short-term leading to a feeling of loneliness. Partners also often feel isolated when brought out as the ‘trailing spouse’. Some initial steps anyone can take if experiencing low mood are to take some exercise, as this gets the blood flowing again, primes neuronal growth important for learning and gives a change of perspective. Arranging a regular schedule around group activities can also provide great social support. The best strategies for dealing with a sense of isolation and loneliness involve proactively engaging with others and seeking out some professional support if needed.
Psynamo Group, Mental & Allied Health Consultancy
1201 Car Po Commercial Building, 18-20 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central
Handle workplace stress by learning to assert yourself to manage workload and expectations. This doesn’t mean you have to say ‘no’ to a request, but don’t say ‘yes’ either. Learn to set some boundaries. For example, say: “I can have a draft by end of this week, but not tomorrow.” It’s also important to manage your multi-tasking by stretching out time dedicated to individual tasks to maintain focus for longer. An example may be you are writing an email and the telephone rings with a person following up on a question. Do you continue the email or take the call? Choose the task which is more likely to be finalised. Treatment can help by teaching some efficient mental strategies and easy-to- implement formal practices.
Counselling Hong Kong
6/F, Cosmos Building, 8, Lan Kwai Fong, Central
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