Patients with mental problems - the most defenseless travellers.J Travel Med. 2017 Sep 01; 24(5)JT
Severe mental illness occurring abroad is a difficult situation for patients, their families, and for the local medical community. Patients with mental problem are doublely stigmatized due to their mental illness and because they are foreigners in an unfamiliar country. The appropriate treatment is often delayed, while patients are often dealt with in a manner that violates their human rights. Moreover, repatriation - which is vital in this case - is often delayed due to the lack of international protocols for the transportation and treatment of mentally ill travelers.
Authors analyzed several factors related to acute mental health problems during travel: the etiology of symptoms, the appropriate treatment possibilities abroad, and medical evacuation and repatriation of the psychotic patient. The article presents a brief review of travel-related mental disorders, the epidemiology of mental health issues faced by travelers, and the significance of pre-travel advice for these patients. The first problem is to recognize (and redress) the particular challenges faced by a psychotic patient in a strange country. The second challenge is to prepare the patients, often in a poor psychiatric state, for medical evacuation by commercial aircraft. Another important question is the best way to take the patient through customs and security control. All of these, as yet unresolved, issues can make the mental patient virtually defenseless.
Although timely repatriation of a mentally ill patient is vital and urgent, most travel insurance policies exclude treatment and repatriation costs incurred due to acute mental illness. The high cost of treatment and repatriation must be paid by the patient or their family, which could lead to severe financial strain or insolvency. Changing the approaches taken by the local mental health care community, police, airport security, and insurance companies remain a challenge for psychiatrists.