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Living abroad, whether for work purposes or for a change of setting and lifestyle, can come with its own challenges and difficulties. International research suggests that nine in ten persons that are living in a different country than their own experience a feeling of isolation, with the main reason for at least half of such persons being the distance from family and friends.

An unexpected situation, such as the Coronavirus, brings with it certain stresses and anxiety that no one would have seen coming. With measures requiring social distancing and self-isolation, one can imagine that this may be even more difficult for a person who is not residing in their own country, and who are separated from their network not by a distance of a household, but by sea. It is not a simple situation where one can just drop everything, pack up and move away, particularly in the fast-paced, ever-changing situation of COVID-19.

If you are a foreigner living in Malta, it is normal to feel confused, with daily press-conferences being held in Maltese, and a lot of different information being shared. We are a close-knit community, and sometimes we may unknowingly make you feel external to the community. Your fears and concerns are valid and natural.

5 ways to stay supported and well informed:

  • Reliable Sources: Avoid getting caught up in rumours and unreliable information shared on social media. In Malta it is best to follow pages and groups that are being monitored by public health care such as this one.
  • Facebook Groups: Various Local Councils or persons in specific locations in Malta are setting up Community Facebook groups for the particular village/town to share information about deliveries, pharmacies and other useful information about your area. It might be helpful to join such groups.
  • Facebook Pages: In line with the above, Local Councils generally also have a Facebook Page where they post updates relevant to your area, so you might also want to follow such pages.
  • Stay in Touch: Plan regular online calls and chats with your friends and family back at home. This might be something that you do already, but during this time it may be helpful to set up a routine daily call, or even plan dinners and movie nights over Skype or other platforms. It is also advisable to avoid talking only about COVID-19, we already have enough information online, the more we keep chats light and positive, the better for our mental health.
  • Seek Help: If you are struggling with your mental health, or feel like you are not coping with the current situation there are various online platforms, and even apps, that you can make use of. Various therapists offer their services online, including local professionals, so you can stay supported even in the comfort of your own home.

If you need support, or even a friendly chat, we are here for you. Feeling stressed, anxious and isolated, is a completely natural and normal response to this difficult situation, and you are definitely not alone in feeling this way; do not be afraid to reach out.

References

Homepage. (2020). Retrieved 26 March 2020, from https://www.axaglobalhealthcare.com/en/about-us/news/2019/nine-in-ten-expats-feel-isolated/

Nicola Falzon is a psychology officer within the Willingness Team, delivering training and workshops on mental health, managing different services such as Sex Clinic Malta, and organising different events. Nicola is also involved in various projects related to sexuality.