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2013.03.15 11:26

The psychiatric toll of emigration

DELFI EN | The Lithuania Tribune2013.03.15 11:26

Psychiatrists notice that emigrants increasingly returning to their homeland during the economic crisis, are afflicted more by mental disorders. Those emigrants most often needing psychiatric help are the ones who are susceptible to the lure of easy money, informs LNK show “Good evening Lithuania” and reported by DELFI.

Psychiatrists notice that emigrants increasingly returning to their homeland during the economic crisis, are afflicted more by mental disorders. Those emigrants most often needing psychiatric help are the ones who are susceptible to the lure of easy money, informs LNK show “Good evening Lithuania” and reported by DELFI.

Psychiatrists say that people who could not find the desired better life abroad or the emigrants that lost their job, deal with psychological disorders more often than those living in Lithuania. Doctors treat such patients every day. This possibly happens due to the fact that people going abroad have such high expectations and underestimate the fact that they will have to abandon their normal social- life  in Lithuania. Social-life is important to a person’s overall mental-health.

Another problem is people often overwork. Desiring to make a lot of money in a certain period of time, people often work way too hard. Psychiatrists make a joke that if people worked as hard in Lithuania as abroad, they would probably  earn even more.

According to experts, emigrants suffer from a variety of mental-disorders . These range from simple sleeping disorders and depression, all the way to  psychosis and even schizophrenia. Some would argue that those with mental-illness would probably still be ill even if stayed in Lithuania, however with emigration the illness progresses faster  after experiencing the high levels of stress. In most cases,many of these people have  already sought help in hospitals abroad.

Often emigrants try to self-medicate their depression with alcohol, drugs and gambling.

According to the psychiatrist and the director of  ’Ąžuolynas’ clinic Raimundas Alekna, “When the depression starts, people often begin to self-treat it with alcohol and drugs. For this reason, many emigrants return to Lithuania and undergo treatment for addictions” .

According to psychiatrists, some of the immigrants that suffer  illness still live and work abroad. They just come back every few months to obtain treatment in Lithuania. There are no official statistics on the number of mentally-ill emigrants. The international research studies however have shown that the mental-health of emigrants is significantly weaker than those living in their homeland.

The director of Vilnius Mental Health Center, Martynas Marcinkevičius says that it is possible to distinguish three main mental-illnesses of emigrants. Those who are predisposed to suffer from mental illness, and would probably be sick in Lithuania as well. Their emigration, with its high stress-level though brings about the premature manifestation of the illness. The second type are  those who suffer from  depression and  post-traumatic stress  due to the overwork of their lifestyle abroad. This high workload and broken social-network is often a bad combination.

M. Marcinkevičius continues, “Another sore point is  the generation of children that were abandoned by emigrant parents who have grown up. It is painful to admit that we have the whole generation of abandoned children, who often become the clients of psychiatrists. Many of them feel unsafe, abandoned.  They find it difficult to adapt. This is the price for the parents’ desire to create their wealth. But the parents often did not think about their spiritual well-being ”

Young people leaving to study abroad find it easier to adapt because they are among people their own age and have a social and cultural environment. For older people, who had families, friends, and co-workers it is more difficult to abandon everything and leave.

Translated by Sandra Dijokaite & edited by Neal Maloney