Mental Health in Germany
Mental health is an essential component of overall well-being and quality of life, and it affects people from all walks of life. As an expat, it is not uncommon for depression and anxiety to set in. Afterall, moving to a new country can be a daunting experience! Adjusting to a new culture, learning a new language, and living a different lifestyle can be challenging – especially for those with pre-existing mental health conditions or those who are prone to stress and anxiety.
As an expat living in Germany, I have personally had to navigate what it is like to get help in Germany for anxiety and depression. It is important to be aware of the mental health resources available to you, including support groups, counseling services, and psychiatric care.
Today, I will give you an overview of the mental health landscape in Germany, including common mental health issues among expats, resources available for mental health support, and tips for maintaining good mental health while living abroad.
Whether you’re a seasoned expat or a newcomer to Germany, taking care of your mental health should be a top priority, and this article aims to provide you with the information and resources you need while helping you navigate some of the challenges along the way.
What are the common mental health issues among expats?
When moving to Germany, it can be a bit challenging to make new friends. Isolation can set in and you may find yourself feeling secluded and lost. Let’s be honest here, Germany is not known for its beautiful weather. The winters are long, dark, wet, and cold. Then, add trying to navigate the complex bureaucracies in Germany as an expat – and you are left with the perfect recipe for depression and anxiety. I read posts from expats all the time who struggle with this. But, the good news is there are ways to navigate all of this. Here are a few good routes to finding more peace of mind and happiness as an expat in Germany:
Support Groups: Support groups are often organized by non-profit organizations, charities, and other community groups and can provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals struggling with mental health issues. These groups are often led by trained volunteers and can be an excellent source of information, advice, and social support. Expats can find support groups online or through community centers and organizations – I will share my favorite resource at the end of the article.
Counseling Services: Counseling services are another resource available to expats in Germany. Many counseling services offer short-term counseling and psychotherapy for individuals struggling with mental health issues. These services can be accessed through public health insurance or private insurance. The waiting time to see a therapist can be long, especially in cities, but many services offer online or telephone counseling sessions, which can be more accessible for expats.
Psychiatric Care: In more severe cases of mental illness, psychiatric care may be necessary. In Germany, psychiatric care is provided by psychiatrists and mental health clinics. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication and provide psychotherapy for mental health conditions. Mental health clinics offer inpatient and outpatient treatment for mental illness and can provide more intensive treatment for individuals in crisis.
It is important to note that mental health resources can vary depending on location, insurance coverage, and individual circumstances. Expats are encouraged to research available resources in their area and to seek professional help when needed. Additionally, many companies offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), which can provide mental health support and resources for their employees. Expats should check with their employer to see if they have access to an EAP.
What you need to know about getting an appointment
In Germany, the demand for psychotherapy services is high, but the supply of psychotherapists is limited – especially if you want to receive therapy in English or another language other than German. While many therapists may speak and understand English – they may not feel comfortable providing therapy in English. Like most places, therapists in Germany have to go through a rigorous and lengthy training process.
There are a limited number of spots available in psychotherapy training programs. The number of available training positions is determined by the government, and it can be difficult for prospective psychotherapists to secure a spot. Germany also has limitations on how many doctors and specialists are permitted to open a practice in cities. This really limits how many trained therapists can help in an area. Sometimes, it helps if you can pay out of pocket to see private therapists.
I found a therapist, but why can I only get a certain amount of hours covered by insurance?
This is due to the costs of providing psychotherapy services. The public health insurance system in Germany covers the cost of psychotherapy, but there are limits on the number of sessions that are covered. The number of covered sessions is determined by the type and severity of the patient’s mental health condition, as well as the treatment approach used by the psychotherapist.
These limitations are put in place to ensure that public funds are used effectively and efficiently, and to provide access to as many people as possible. Unfortunately, it can also create challenges for patients who require long-term psychotherapy or who cannot afford to pay for additional sessions out of pocket.
Can I get antidepressants or anti anxiety meds in Germany?
Psychotherapists and psychiatrists typically work closely together to provide comprehensive care for individuals with mental health conditions. While psychotherapists do not prescribe medication, they may refer their patients to psychiatrists or other medical professionals who can prescribe antidepressants or anti anxiety meds if appropriate.
Psychotherapists in Germany may prefer to focus on talk therapy and other non-pharmacological treatments for several reasons. Psychotherapy can help individuals address the underlying causes of their depression and develop coping skills and strategies for managing their symptoms. It can also provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which can be beneficial in the long term.
Antidepressants and anti anxiety meds are not appropriate for everyone and may have potential side effects and risks. Psychotherapists may prefer t o exhaust non-pharmacological treatment options before considering medication, or they may want to avoid prescribing medication for individuals with a history of substance abuse or other contraindications. In general, Germany tends to lean more towards holistic approaches in medicine and less towards a big pharma approach. Think – long walks, tea, yoga, meditation, and talk therapy.
There may be limitations to access to antidepressants and anti anxiety meds in Germany, such as limitations on the number of prescriptions that can be given or long waiting lists to see a psychiatrist for medication management. In these cases, psychotherapists may focus on providing non-pharmacological treatments as the primary form of care.
One more thing to take note of – if you are taking an antidepressant when you arrive, it is also important to make sure Germany carries the antidepressant you are on. In some cases, you may have to switch medications – anyone who has had to take antidepressants knows just how terrible it can be to switch to a new medication that may or may not work for you.
What about services for my child?
Moving to a new country can be an exciting adventure, but it can also be stressful, especially for children. For expat children in Germany, adjusting to a new environment, language, and culture can be challenging and may lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. As a parent, it’s crucial to be aware of your child’s mental health and to seek help when needed.
There are several mental health resources available for expat children in Germany. Here are a few resources parents should look for:
School Counseling Services: Most schools in Germany have counseling services available for students. These services provide students with emotional and social support, as well as guidance on academic and personal issues. If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, speak to their school counselor. They may refer you to an outside mental health professional if necessary.
Expat Support Groups: Expat support groups can be a great resource for both parents and children. They provide a sense of community and a safe space to share experiences and struggles. These groups often have online forums or in-person meetings and can be found through community centers and online forums.
Private Mental Health Services: Private mental health services, such as psychologists and psychiatrists, are available for expats in Germany. While these services can be expensive, many private health insurances cover the costs. Some mental health professionals may also offer a sliding fee scale for those who cannot afford to pay the full cost.
Multilingual Mental Health Services: For expat children who struggle with the German language, it’s essential to find a mental health professional who can speak their language. Many mental health professionals in Germany are multilingual and can provide therapy in various languages, but you still need to be prepared that it might be challenging to find a therapist who is comfortable speaking a different language that is not German.
Self-Care Techniques: Teaching children self-care techniques can help them manage their emotions and reduce stress. Encourage your child to engage in physical activity, spend time in nature, and practice mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing and meditation.
While there are a lot of things to consider when thinking about a navigating mental health services in Germany, it is important to know that it is possible. I found a lot of helpful resources and support in local expat groups on Facebook. The important thing to remember here is that you are not alone here, and that it does get better. I have been in Germany for almost 2 years now, and thanks to my wonderful therapist – I have been off of my antidepressants for a year now. The transition was rough, but the more integrated I become – the easier it has gotten. Expath has written a wonderful resource tool that I would highly recommend checking out!