Expat psychiatrist conducts survey on Brexit mental health effects

Published:  19 Feb at 6 PM
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Tagged: France, Citizenship
An expat psychiatrist living and working in France has identified Brexit-related anger, helplessness and severe anxiety amongst British expats.

Christine Haworth-Staines, a fully qualified psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society (BPS), has lived and worked in South West France for 10 years and is now seeing first hand how the decision to leave the EU has affected her fellow expats. During an interview with a respected online expat forum, she revealed her recently-conducted survey of 60 expats lining in Gers, saying the results confirmed that Brexit is harming British expats’ mental wellbeing.

According to the survey, anxiety has increased by a factor of 22 per cent, day-to-day happiness has fallen by just under 14 per cent and feelings of security concerning the future have crashed by 21 per cent. In an article in the BPS’s website, she states the Brexit experience to date has been one of anger and anxiety, compounded with an overall feeling of total helplessness. None of these feelings, she writes, are ‘exactly conducive’ to longterm mental wellbeing.

Explaining that feelings of belonging aren’t just confined to family as they also extend to the society in the chosen community and country, Howarth-Staines points out that being EU citizens as well as Britons gives a sense of belonging in a wider socio-economic group outside their home countries. In addition, there’s a sense of purpose in everyday life which is essential for a feeling of wellbeing, with the potential dangers to expats’ rights of a hard Brexit sapping the confidence needed to get on with life.

Expats already prone to anxiety disorders, she says, are having an even worse time dealing with the lack of progress in the Brexit negotiations. Those who believe worrying is a positive state which helps with control of situations are also having problems, and some who find trust in others difficult are now feeling their negative views have been reinforced. According to one client, she’d always believed those in power would do what seems sensible and protect their citizens, but now, she said, she’s lost faith in people.

Expats are most affected by the pervading uncertainty, with concerns over the right to to work and the right to healthcare in the forefront. Some are even worried their French neighbours and friends will reject them once Brexit is finalised. Haworth-Staines hopes the British negotiating team will ultimately be able to agree a deal avoiding the negativity of the ‘what if’ scenarios and, for now, she’s trying not to worry.
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