Come fly with me – travel with a mental illness

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Last year I attempted to board a flight to Ibiza but had to check out last minute due to some mild hallucinations (thinking I could see people from the past). I’ll admit, it wasn’t very well planned on my part – the flight from Manchester airport was on a Friday night and of all the places to visit I’d chosen the party island… well, I hate crowds and rowdy hen parties!

It’s actually not uncommon to fall ill sans flight – there’s been a paper in Psychiatric Times recently that looks into the subject of travelling with a severe mental illness. The paper says that 20% of travel incidents have been described as psychotic and according to WHO severe mental illness constitutes 1-3 main health crisis in air travel.

The stresses, lack of sleep, crowded airports and culture shock are all known triggers for schizophrenia or psychosis. However, I’ve since made successful trips to Barcelona, with my partner, and to Scotland by train, alone.

Here’s some tips that helped me:

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MEDICATION, MEDICATION, MEDICATION, THAT’S WHAT YOU NEED!

It’s crucial that medication is factored into travel to prevent relapse. As luggage can sometimes be lost you can take medication in hand luggage to keep it near at all times. For the stay a pharmacy can sort out a scheduled pack of medication for each day. Don’t forget to order any repeat prescriptions in advance to cover your time away.

INSURE FOR THE BEST, INSURE FOR THE WORST

Mind have produced a detailed guide to travel insurance for mental health which is available freely on their website.

RELAX, JUST DO IT!

Try tested ways to relax during, before and after your journey: camomile tea, lavender oils, deep breathing, and listening to soothing music on your headphones all help. When I flew to Barcelona from Liverpool there were even leather recliners with massagers built in to aid relaxation.

WHY EVEN BOTHER TO TRAVEL, YOU ASK?

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A holiday abroad or at home has numerous benefits such as achieving goals, hopes and dreams. Learning about new cultures and switching primary identity from service user to tourist.

With tenacious preparations, travel buddies, rest in-flights, plenty of water and avoiding alcohol; travel with severe mental illness is a very real possibility!

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