COVID-19: New Zealand expats forced to seek mental health support after quarantine fees introduced

The Government's new COVID-19 quarantine fees are causing so much anxiety for expat Kiwis, it's forcing dozens in the UK to seek mental health support.

And many feel alienated, abandoned and isolated.

Dr Jason Spendelow's inbox has been inundated this week with messages from fellow Kiwis.

"A lot of them have talked about a sense of alienation from their country and that has been a source of increased distress," he tells Newshub.

Dr Spendelow is a clinical psychologist from Te Awamutu, and in the 10 years he's been in the UK, he hasn't seen such vitriol aimed at expats.

"When you're distressed and really struggling with the pandemic and being away from home, certainly those kinds of comments, however many there are, aren't going to be helpful," he says.

On top of that, expats who return home for less than three months must pay for compulsory quarantining - $3100 if you're by yourself, or $5000 for a family of four. It's a financial burden, and now a mental health burden.

"What I have been doing is saying 'If you're struggling, come to me and I'll try sign-post you and point you in the right direction', as a way to volunteer a bit of my time to help people out," Dr Spendelow says.

But he can't treat everyone and with NHS services clogged, Kiwis will have to pay for treatment themselves.

"It's sad and it's heartbreaking for everyone," he adds.

Dr Spendelow recognises those in New Zealand have sacrificed a lot as well, and will for some time - he's just urging some empathy for those living abroad.

"When we look back at this situation in 10 years' time and see this as an event, what do we want to say about how we treated each other?" he asks.

"I think a bit of compassion would go a real long way, for all of us."

All six million Kiwis, no matter where in the world they are. 

Where to find help and support: 

  • Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633
  • Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)
  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
  • What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email or online chat
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584