Expat mental health: Addressing the issue

expat mental health

As an insurance brokerage specializing in international health insurance, Pacific Prime is one of the loudest voices out there when it comes to trying to inform those living and working abroad of what risks they should be prepared for when moving to a new locale. Knowing about the specific area in which you live, how the healthcare system there works, and any lesser known dangers that may exist there can be hugely beneficial to families in a new land. After all, when moving to an unfamiliar place, we have a million things to worry about, and oftentimes being well versed in the local medical system is one of the last things we consider. However, there’s one aspect of expat health that may be even less thought of, and that’s mental health. Here, we discuss expat mental health, and try to raise some points that expats worldwide can make use of.

Expat mental health in the news

Recently Aetna International published a report that highlighted a specific case in the Persian Gulf. Specifically, in February 2017, an American working in the Persian Gulf committed suicide. Despite all of her friends’ assertions that she seemed “vivacious and full of life” on the surface, she actually suffered from clinical depression. The report itself pointed out several factors that put expatriates in a unique situation vis-a-vis their domestic counterparts that may leave them more susceptible to mental health problems.

First, expatriates are cut off from the emotional and psychological support systems that they would have once been able to reliably fall back upon if times ever got tough. The advent of modern communication technology has afforded expats a great deal more indirect contact with loved ones. Gone are the days when the only way to get in touch was with a letter or a call on the landline. Now, we can video call or simply send a quick online message to our family and friends back home, or even just check out their social media accounts to see what they’ve been up to. However, even with the ability to communicate readily at our fingertips, it seems we’re doing less and less actual speaking with the people in our home countries.

Next, the article mentions “adapting to new languages, cultures and work responsibilities”, which is certainly true. For some people, getting outside of our comfort zones can be a jarring experience. Combine this with the possibility of feeling overwhelmed when faced with a host of differing challenges, and we can start to feel like we’re up to our neck in adversity.

All of the above can lead to a feeling that we are cut off from the world we once knew, and induce feelings of helplessness, confusion, or anxiety. The important thing is that we take the necessary steps to address these issues before they become deep seated problems. However, this is often more easily said than done.

The stigma of mental health

Let’s face it. Almost anywhere you go in the world, there will be a stigma attached to mental health issues. Whether as a youth or an adult, there is likely some point at which we’ve all seen or heard someone put down or written off as “crazy.” If someone were to experience this enough, they would likely learn to believe that having a mental health issue is something to be ashamed of and hidden from the world. Then, afraid to even share with their most trusted friends and family, the problems may get worse without help and culminate in a rash action being taken. This is the downward spiral that is created by treating mental illness as something shameful. In fact, mental illness should be treated as something normal that should be addressed with medical professionals, just as would be the case with any physical illness.

All this actually highlights one of Aetna’s mentioned solutions for improving expat mental health: raising awareness. The best way to erase a stigma is to shine a light on it. By putting pressure on local healthcare systems, governments and other organizations to run campaigns for the promotion of mental health awareness, people can begin to change the way that their neighbors think about the issue, and encourage those that need help to seek it out.

Other expat mental health solutions

So beyond raising awareness, what can people do to address their expat mental health concerns? Well, many insurance plans include a benefit known as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). These programs can provide a range of different features that can assist those struggling with their mental health. This includes support over the phone for stress management, substance abuse, or coping with major life events. They can also include coverage for local therapy sessions.

Sadly, for some the fact remains that mental health facilities, resources, and support vary greatly in different areas in the world. If you are fortunate enough to be stationed in an area with a highly developed mental healthcare system, you should count yourself lucky. The reality for many expats is that, no matter how much effort and money they or their employers are willing to put in, the local area simply will not have much, if any, expat mental health support available. In cases such as this, more creative solutions may be required, such as online therapy sessions.

Another factor that should be considered by every company sending staff abroad long-term should be the process through which the employee is prepared for the new assignment. Many companies send workers abroad without much, if any, consideration for preparing them for the experience mentally. In fact, Aetna believes it would be prudent for employers to carry out screenings or assessments to evaluate if a given employee should even be sent overseas, as some people will simply be able to cope better with such a large change more effectively than others, regardless of previous work performance. At the least, businesses should supply staff going abroad with comprehensive cultural and language training to make assimilating to a new location easier.

Expats in crisis?

So, are expats really more at risk of suffering mental health issues than others? To be sure, depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders are global and ubiquitous. No particular demographic can claim to be exempt from these types of problems. However, when comparing one company’s overseas workers to its domestic employees, one study cited in the Aetna report found that 56% of expats self-reported signs of anxiety or depression, compared to only 21% of workers in the home office.

This shows that businesses should be concerned about their overseas employees’ ongoing state of mind. As such, they should secure for their employees an insurance and wellness policy that includes considerations for mental health. By offering regular therapy sessions, and further treatment for more acute mental disorders, companies can ensure that their valued staff abroad are never left feeling like they don’t have the support they need.

Whether you’re a company looking to protect your employees, or an individual that feels you could benefit from this type of coverage, you can always get the information you need about mental health insurance benefits from Pacific Prime. Our staff is here to address all inquiries, and let you know which insurance plans have the very best in mental health benefits, including those from Aetna.

Contact us today for a free plan comparison and price quote.

Managing risks involved with overseas-based staff

airport flight board showing international destinations as a sign for companies to consider managing risks better

For Human Resources staff, ensuring the safety of your workers heading abroad on overseas assignments means assessing and mitigating the potential risks involved. When it comes to managing risks, securing appropriate insurance can go a long way. Often the things that we perceive as being major threats are the last things that will go wrong; but the small stuff can really ruin an overseas experience.

Following a recent article printed in the International Travel & Health Insurance Journal, Pacific Prime delves into the considerations you should make insurance-wise when you’re sending staff overseas.

Weighing up the likelihood of travel-related issues

When it comes to assessing the possible dangers of working abroad, we have a tendency to think of more high-profile risks such as terrorism or natural disasters. While these are concerns that absolutely should be considered during an assessment, their likelihood of occurring can be extremely low. Instead, we tend to ignore some of the more low-profile concerns, such as stolen items or hygiene illnesses, which can happen at a much higher frequency.

In countries where kidnapping is more common, such as those in Latin America or South East Asia, it is wise to ensure that your company provides coverage in case the unthinkable does happen. However, it’s just as important to consider things such as purse snatching, vehicle accidents, and bouts of food poisoning; all of which are more likely to affect your staff and, eventually, disrupt your business operations, should they occur.

Preparing your staff for life overseas

Using common sense and taking personal precautions is a must when travelling. Often, business travelers can be the cause of their own risk; either by simply ignoring the conditions of the country they’re in, or by making poor decisions. Obviously drink driving is dangerous and illegal the world over, however the number of tourists and working visa holders appearing in court in places like New Zealand have reached national attention.

Socializing and mixing can be a common and frequent part of a travelling business person’s life. Managing the risks associated with those expectations might mean setting a strict company policy, or simply ensuring your own company liability insurance can cover what should hopefully be an infrequent, unlikely event.

Understand the risks in countries you do business in

The issues and risks your staff may face will vary from country to country; so it’s important to clearly understand what might occur, and where. Again, some countries are more prone to problems like kidnapping or acts of terrorism. Other destinations will be Zika-affected locations, and as such will cause special concern from those at risk while travelling there. Risk mapping can be an appropriate way to proactively mitigate any potential issues.

This can help you by managing risks per geographical location, and per the staff expected to operate in those areas. A kidnapping protection policy can be expensive, but it might be absolutely appropriate for some staff, while others might need tailored international health insurance plans to cover them for location-specific illnesses. Targeted risk profiling will mean targeted coverage for your staff overseas, and may save you money.

Be clear about your expectations of staff while abroad

Sending staff overseas is a big responsibility for companies, but can also be a huge opportunity for your staff. While travelling employees will no doubt know to put their best foot forward when representing your company internationally, you should also be very clear about your company safety guidelines, and the importance of complying with them.

Putting the effort into risk mapping, country profiling, arranging flights and accommodations, and acquiring relevant right-to-work visas can all be undone by a staff member who fails to keep themselves safe. This is why, as part of managing risks for overseas employees, you need to absolutely stress that adhering to your company safety and wellbeing policy is non-negotiable.

Prepare for what you know, be aware of what you don’t

Part of assessing business travel risk also means ensuring staff keep their wits about them. Travellers often have access to large amounts of information online and friendly advice from colleagues about what to watch out for when abroad; but what about things that people don’t know about? The reason travel blogs still exist is that countries and locations are dynamic; the people, culture, and even threats, can change a lot over a relatively short period of time.

Some of the information you read online might be out of date, or colleagues may have anecdotes from when they visited an area more than a few years ago. If your focus is only on major concerns such as a terrorist attack while in Africa or being victim to a robbery whilst on a tuk tuk in Thailand, then you might not see an unknown threat such as ATM card-scanners, or an increase in dangerous climate conditions due to changing weather patterns.

Being responsive and adaptive to things you don’t know can help you and your staff overcome any unseen challenges that may threaten to disrupt your business, and put your employees at risk.

What can I do to better protect my staff and my business?

There are a number of actions that you can take as a company to mitigate risks when you’re sending staff abroad. Some, such as strengthening internal policies, and installing protocols and systems for managing risks for overseas employees, are steps your business can take. As for matters of insurance, the best decision you can make is to work with a reputable, international insurance broker such as Pacific Prime.

We are experts in all things insurance, particularly those with international and corporate considerations. Our staff in Hong Kong have previously discussed what specific insurance requirements a company might have when sending staff overseas, while our Singapore office has an article on disaster insurance that many businesses will find useful to know.

If you’re a company that wants to know if you have covered all your bases for staff that you’re posting overseas, check out our Corporate Site or contact the team at Pacific Prime today! 

Cyber attacks vs natural disasters: Which cost more?

cyber attacks

It’s a sad thing to say, but there have been a plethora of storms happening recently. At the time of this article’s writing, much of Houston, Texas is underwater. Hurricane Harvey barreled down upon the city, dumping over 11 trillion gallons of water on the area and causing widespread flooding that has devastated the local community. We at Pacific Prime certainly wish Houston a speedy recovery from Hurricane Harvey, but as insurance professionals, we know that once a modicum of normality is restored to Houston and the surrounding area, insurance companies are going to be counting their losses and comparing this disaster to those in history. To be sure, hurricanes and typhoons are incredibly destructive and costly occurrences, but a new report from Lloyd’s puts these massive natural disasters on par with a danger that is not as much in the forefront of the average person’s mind: cyber attacks. Here, we discuss the report’s findings and examine the potential magnitude of large scale cyber attacks with regards to potential financial losses.

Superstorms cause super losses

In Pacific Prime’s headquarters city of Hong Kong, there were recently two separate typhoons in a single week. The first of which, Typhoon Hato, has been estimated to have caused about USD1 billion in damages. Being a city that is strongly constructed out of steel and concrete, this is actually not nearly as high a figure as it could have been, even though Hato was one of the strongest storms in Hong Kong’s recorded history. Hato’s damage to Macau, which was substantially more affected by the storm, remain unclear at this point.

Unlike Hong Kong, the homes in Houston, which are generally constructed from wood and other materials that are lighter than what is usually found in a Hong Kong skyscraper, are less able to resist the forces of a large storm. Couple this with the flooding that occurred and the fact that so many more homes are on ground level, and you have a recipe for major damage to property and financial loss. Of course US insurers are highly concerned with how much Hurricane Harvey will cost them in the end. Preliminary reports suggest that losses may come in at around the same amount incurred following landfall of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which ended up being the United State’s most costly natural disaster in recorded history.

Hurricane Katrina was a somewhat similar situation to what is happening in Houston, as a powerful storm resulted in the flooding of New Orleans, Louisiana and surrounding areas. The damage caused by Katrina was to the tune of USD108 billion! As high as this number seems, it is very possible that Hurricane Harvey will create a similar loss figure.

A digital perfect storm?

Considering that all of the above mentioned losses come from huge natural disasters that affect millions of lives in a single go, it might be hard to believe that a single cyber attack could possibly result in as much damage (monetarily, at least). So if this Lloyd’s analysis is true, how exactly would a cyber attack go about doing as much damage as Hurricane Harvey has done to Houston? Lloyd’s wanted to get the point across that cyber crimes, while they may not get the attention in the media that natural disasters do, can affect people and businesses on a very large scale.

As Lloyd’s reports, a hack which takes down a single cloud service provider could see cumulative losses up to USD121 billion, while a virus affecting computer operating systems for many global businesses could come with a USD28.7 billion price tag. What’s more, while Cyber Insurance is gaining popularity around the world, in the event that such a cyber attack were to happen, a large majority of those affected would have zero insurance coverage. So, depending on the degree to which a business is affected, a large loss due to a cyber attack could be back breaking. Even if money lost to hackers is not a major worry, the damage that can be done to a company’s image or reputation can be irreparable. This is because clients and partners can begin to question the security a company has in place, and may think that they are exposing themselves to too much risk.

From an insurer’s point of view, cyber attacks can be just as much of a headache as a natural disaster merely due to the logistics of addressing claims related to large scale attacks. The more people that are affected, the more claims that are made, the more manpower that must be put forth by insurance company staff. Beyond reimbursing damages to policyholders, this is an additional costs that insurers must consider. Of course, not having to send out agents to assess physical damage is certainly a savings for insurers servicing Cyber Insurance policies versus property insurance policies.

Cyber attacks case in point

One need not search too far back in history to find a cyber attack that caused huge losses for businesses and individuals around the world. As recently as May of 2017, a widespread ransomware known as WannaCry began infesting the systems of Windows operating system users around the world. Exploiting a security flaw that had already been known and addressed by many through Windows updates, the virus made its way into unprotected computers and held all the data on them for ransom. If users did not pay the amount stipulated by the software, it would erase all data on an infected computer.

This ransomware attack alone resulted in a total global loss of approximately USD4 billion.

Preventing damage with Cyber Insurance

Much like no amount of Home Insurance can stop a hurricane from wreaking havoc upon a person’s belongings, Cyber Insurance is not a fail safe against being hacked, having computer systems become infected with a virus, or data loss or theft. Ensuring computer systems and data security is something that every business needs to work closely on with their IT team. However, where Home Insurance can repair or replace damage to one’s belongings, Cyber Insurance can go a long way towards protecting a business and ensuring that it weathers the proverbial ‘storm’ of cyber attacks.

Cyber Insurance provides policyholders with different levels of protection. First off, liability for the loss of others’ data is addressed with payouts up to maximum amount, so the insured will likely be protected from all litigation as long as their maximums are set to an appropriate level.

Another way in which Cyber Insurance can provide protection is by making up for the lost revenue that may occur due to a stoppage of business. If, for instance, a cyber attack caused lengthy downtime while computer systems are rebuilt, Cyber Insurance can help to pay for overhead costs that may become burdensome on a business without a continuous flow of income coming in.

Additionally, Cyber Insurance will address costs related to actually restoring computer systems and lost electronic data.

Finally, many will no doubt want to attempt to catch the individual(s) responsible for hurting their business, so Cyber Insurance can provide benefits to go toward investigation of cyber attacks in the hopes of identifying perpetrators and bringing them to justice.

Of course, like cyber attacks themselves, Cyber Insurance is changing and evolving all the time. For more information on Cyber Insurance, contact the knowledgeable insurance professionals at Pacific Prime today! They can answer all of your questions and get your started on the path towards peace of mind both personally and professionally.

Pacific Prime launches new corporate section for global businesses

corporate section

Never ones to rest on our laurels, Pacific Prime Insurance Brokers is proud to announce the launch of a new section on our website, PacificPrime.com! The new corporate section is an enhanced one-stop shop for all business insurance needs! If your company has any questions related to group health insurance, international health insurance or any other related topic, be sure to check out this new section, the homepage of which can be found here.

So what’s on offer? Let’s find out:

Insurance solutions

What kind of group health insurance coverages are out there? In the insurance solutions portion of the corporate section, find out about the various facets of group health insurance plans and why you might want to consider each for your employees. Medical insurance does not just mean coverage for medicine, hospital stays and surgeries. There are a number of other benefits that you can consider. This includes dental, vision, wellness, maternity, disability and life insurances, and more!

Outside of these above solutions that will address the needs of your employees, Pacific Prime also provides in this section information about some of the business-specific benefits that every company should know about, including:

  • Property insurance
  • Liability insurances
  • Group travel and accident insurance
  • Professional indemnity insurance
  • Business interruption insurance

With information on comprehensive medical and corporate insurance solutions, this page is a great place to start when searching for group and corporate insurance information.

Our approach

Lots of companies sell insurance for businesses and other organizations. Where Pacific Prime really shines, however, is in our methodology. With over 17 years of insurance broking experience, we now have the various processes that our members use down pat. Not only in assisting with making claims, but also when going through other planning and analysis. Not only do we provide policy broking service, but also consulting and plan administration, which you may not get with other brokers.

Even our closest competitors cannot match the technological advantages that Pacific Prime provides, including:

  • Census and premium management/accounting tools
  • A claims management tool
  • A document management platform

These in-house systems are all yours to take advantage of at zero additional costs versus going with an insurance company directly.  Check the ‘Our approach’ page to start to find out about why Pacific Prime will be your preferred choice.

Partners

As a corporate insurance broker, everything that we offer is one consideration, but it’s still only one piece of the equation where your insurance needs are concerned. We work with a good number of the world’s best global insurance companies, as well as the most highly regarded local insurers in the countries where our offices are located. Our ‘Partners’ section is the place where corporate members can go to find out more about our relationships with insurers.

Beyond the insurers we work with, you can also find out about some of the prestigious members that have made Pacific Prime their choice for group health and corporate insurance benefits. Learn some of the industries that we have the most experience with, such as professional service firms and schools. Then dig a little deeper to find out how our experience translates to advantages for our members when it comes to negotiating plans with insurers at renewal time or analyzing claims data.

Corporate section resources

The last part of the corporate section to mention is our resources page. Here, for corporate members that like to stay up to date on the latest in international insurance data, Pacific Prime regularly publishes reports related to various important industry trends including the cost of health insurance, international medical insurance inflation, and industry trends. Want to know how insurance in the countries in which your organization operates compares to policies found in other areas? Look no further!

Purchasing corporate insurance is no small decision. Pacific Prime recognizes this and wants to make sure that you are delivered the plan which best fits your needs, at a value that fits your budget. We have created the new corporate section to give a great introduction to what we can offer you, but there really is no better way to figure that out today than to contact us! Do so now and get advice directly from one of our insurance advisors. They can provide you with a plan comparison and free quote.