Mental health is something I care about deeply. Depression and/or anxiety touch most families these days and is of significance for expats and their families.
Sometimes I believe that expat spouses have it easier than the posted officers. We’re invited to attend formal and informal spouse functions, coffee mornings, general language classes, community group events (e.g., ANZA, AWA, BWA) gym classes.. whatever comes our way. These social events provide opportunities to network and meet new people but also to make new friends. These friends eventually become our support network who give us a boost when we need it and a kick in the pants when needed too!
The officers not so much.
Often due to visa requirements the posted officer is the bread winner for the household. We rely on that one salary to support our lifestyle here and fulfil financial commitments back home. Talk about pressure! Many work extended hours and are on call 24/7. There is no downtime. They travel for weeks or months at a time which adds the stress of leaving family behind in the adopted country and leaving family responsibilities to the spouse.
Between the work day and evening work commitments, officers find limited opportunities to socialise outside of work. These functions can be an additional stressor as the officer must remain “on” throughout the work day and again during the function leaving little time to recharge before backing it all up for tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.
Self-care is a key ingredient for mental health and wellbeing. For my spouse there is limited opportunity to blow off steam. The capacity to exercise outside is thwarted by traffic, poorly maintained roads and footpaths, insane traffic and pollution. If you’re not a gym junkie what do you do?
For me, I try to find activities and experiences that fill our buckets. Netflix has been a godsend, hosting dinners for friends within our home, weekend trips away, open and honest communication with each other, cooking interesting meals, cultural experiences within the city and monthly dinners with trusted friends to debrief with have all been of some support.
How do you support your spouse?