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Psychiatric meds and in-country medical exam

 
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TheWanderer



Joined: 22 Jan 2013

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:54 am    Post subject: Psychiatric meds and in-country medical exam Reply with quote

I'm concerned about the in-country medical exam. I take 3 medications for bipolar - klonipin, seroquel and lamictal. I believe these are available from pharmacists in Korea, but I want to know if a) I should/must disclose these during my medical exam here and/or in Korea, and b) if using these meds will disqualify me from teaching in Korea. Oh, and c) do they test for psychiatric meds? thanx from The Wanderer.
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ttompatz



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Location: Kwangju, South Korea

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did you lie on the self-medical and visa application form and say that you had no history of mental health issues (commit visa fraud and issue false documents bearing your signature)? (rhetorical questions and I don't need an answer but to frame my reply).

If you disclose the fact prior to coming to Korea you won't get a visa and won't get a job.

If it is discovered by immigration your visa can be canceled and you can be ordered out of the country (exit order).

If it is discovered by the employer it will probably cost you your job (a teacher with mental health issues is a "scandalous" issue for a hagwon or a school).

It could leave you stranded abroad with no job, no visa, no support, no protections and potentially no money. Are you willing to take those risks for a job (adventure) in Korea?

And to answer the original question, if you have a positive show on the drug screen (your bennies will probably react) then they will retest to confirm that it was not a false positive prior to your rapid departure at your expense.

They are unlikely to proceed with immigration or criminal proceedings for visa fraud or issuing fraudulent documents (there are more than a fair few "teachers" in Korea with mental health issues) but that is not to say that they won't.

.
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liveinkorea316



Joined: 20 Aug 2010
Location: South Korea

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Easy answers are:

1) You should not disclose your mental health history on the questionnaire. Just say 'no'

2) As far as we know as long as your drugs are not opioids they will not trigger any tests. The tests are for specific banned drugs, not any and every possible thing in the your bloodstream. If you want to be safe go off them for a day before the test and go back on them immediately after. Remember the test will occur likely a week or so after you arrive here so it is no drama.

3) When you get here there are doctors that can refill your prescriptions in Seoul I would think. Don't quote me but many other's have come over without problems.

I am not a fan of anyone being discriminated against because of their medical conditions. If you think you can function fine here then it is you who can decide that along with your doctors.
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TheWanderer



Joined: 22 Jan 2013

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for your calm and reasoned reply! Much appreciated.[/u]
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kinship



Joined: 24 Jan 2013

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:45 pm    Post subject: Re: Psychiatric meds and in-country medical exam Reply with quote

TheWanderer wrote:
I'm concerned about the in-country medical exam. I take 3 medications for bipolar - klonipin, seroquel and lamictal. I believe these are available from pharmacists in Korea, but I want to know if a) I should/must disclose these during my medical exam here and/or in Korea, and b) if using these meds will disqualify me from teaching in Korea. Oh, and c) do they test for psychiatric meds? thanx from The Wanderer.


I have pondered this off and on throughout the day and I was waiting to see what kind of responses you would get before I would say anything.

My main question is are you thinking about the students at all? Your departure, if you are caught lying, does affect them. What if you make a slip in your medication? Will you behavior be affected as the Korean classroom does come with a lot of stress at times?

Then, with so many other countries offering teaching positions which do not require a medical test, why choose one that does and forces you to lie and put your employment and residency at risk?

That just adds more stress to you which may influence you to make a mistake with your medication.

Then,
Quote:
3) When you get here there are doctors that can refill your prescriptions in Seoul I would think. Don't quote me but many other's have come over without problems.


You need to be aware that medical privacy in this country is not the same as it is in the west. You would have to be very careful which doctor you went to and if an emergency arises and he has to be contacted because the hospital wants to administer drugs to help you, your secret is exposed.

(That is an emergency situation which may or may not take place but are you willing to risk it?)

Please think this through carefully as lying on an application is serious as is getting fouled up by any number of situations. Is Korea the place you really want to be or would another country be better for you and your medical condition.
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Skippy



Joined: 18 Jan 2003
Location: Daejeon

PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glimpsed a little at the thread. Still here is a something I have for this frequent topic.

Skippy Stock List/Answer

Depression and Teaching In Korea is a slight touchy topic. This is a problem that comes up. To get a job here in Korea, you have to submit a health form. One of the questions they ask is about mental health. The problem that comes up is to the western mind, depression is seen as common problem. For some people in the west, treatment with drugs is common. Here in Korea and especially with immigration it is very black and white. It is either a yes or a no. The is a bit of a social stigma against psychological issues. Admitting to them is seen as weakness and a basic admitting that you are crazy.

My general opinion to any teacher with depression. Is sit down and really think about coming here. If you get mild depression once in a while. If you sort of need antidepressants to help, then you are likely fine to work in Korea. If you suffer from serious depression that can cripple you, then do not come to Korea. Life here can be stressful at times and coming here with serious depression.

So if you do come, you have some things to figure out. One where are you going to get your antidepressants. Many are available here, yet some will be harder to find. Also getting them is not always just a visit to the drug store. You need to find a doctor that can prescribe.

Other issues, like privacy also come up. Simply put, "keep your mouth shut". Your coteachers may be nice and friendly. That can change over night. Gossip happens. What you say to one, may easily be told to all later. Keep your private life well private. Anything you say, can and may be used against you in the court of Korean opinion. Even worse when it comes to privacy, is doctors do not always keep their mouth shut.

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young_clinton



Joined: 09 Sep 2009

PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Klonipin is a Benzodiazapine (Valium like drug). Do they test for those? I don't know. Those are drugs that are heavily abused by druggies. As far as your medical condition keep it in the closet while you are working and don't disclose it on applications. Find out from this site where there are Psychiatrists that dispense this medication without ratting to your employer or immigration.
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TheWanderer



Joined: 22 Jan 2013

PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Extra special thank you to Skippy for all that valuable assembled information. Not sure how these replies work so i hope this reaches you.

Yours is the most balanced, thorough and thoughtful reply I've received. Although I'm happy for all of them. Just for the record, I take minimal, maintenance dosages of these meds. I'm not teetering on the edge of madness as some other posters might assume when they read that a person is on psychiatric medication. I don't miss taking my meds; never have. As far as stress affecting me more powerfully because of my diagnosis, I can say that I've just completed a 2.5 year MATESOL program successfully, and have been teaching and tutoring steadily for two-plus years now. In that time I've lost my best friend to a massive heart attack, one student to suicide and went thru our family crisis with my mother's brush with cancer - all while negotiating a very rigorous and intense TESOL grad program. I certainly had days when it was all too much for me, but I think any of my fellow students would say the same.

I know none of that changes what S Korean schools and teachers and authorities might think of bi-polar and other mental health issues. While my dosages are small and my crises are few and manageable, I can't change anyone's mind about these things. And I know that I don't have to travel halfway around the world to encounter ignorance and prejudice about people with mental health issues.

So it is a big decision fraught with some peril if I decide to pursue working in Korea. I have several friends who are teachers there and they all agree I would love it and that the students would like me. I'm actually a good teacher, and I'll be happy I think no matter where I teach next. This has been a very helpful forum for me and helps me greatly when considering whether to teach in S Korea or elsewhere. Hope to hear more!

Thanks to all.
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kinship



Joined: 24 Jan 2013

PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I have several friends who are teachers there and they all agree I would love it and that the students would like me. I'm actually a good teacher, and I'll be happy I think no matter where I teach next


Here is one reason why I do not like giving advice to very many people. They always withhold some information vital to the situation.

If you already had advice from people in this ocuntry, why ask the question on this board? They would know the score, the regulations and could provide the information you required.

When I talked about the stress and medication, I had done a little research on what you said was your medical issue so that I could address your concerns better.

Teaching here is much different than teaching in the west and there have been many a certified teacher leaving because they couldn't adapt. But that is up to you to find out. The big thing is, if you lie, and I am sure there are many current teachers who do lie, on your application and get caught you are in a heap of a mess.

But that also is up to you if you want to take the risk. I am tired of those people who do lie because after awhile we all are affected by those who try to break the rules. The many changes in requirements is evidence of that and also the changes in how some people get drivers licenses provide evidence to that fact.
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TheWanderer



Joined: 22 Jan 2013

PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My Korean friends gave me advice that they thought I would enjoy living and teaching in Korea, that's all. In addition, they are all native Korean citizens and thus do not have experience with needing a visa OR being drug-tested in order to teach, or the culture shock that affects Westerners who go there to teach.

I asked on this forum because I needed advice from people who were, like myself, non-native ESL teachers working or planning to work in S. Korea. Sorry if you feel I was wasting your time.
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Skippy



Joined: 18 Jan 2003
Location: Daejeon

PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Darn, I was going for informed, but snarky. with a touch ofrudeness.

Well, if you think you are not a risk with your bipolar, then come over. Just to reiterate.

1) Keep your mouth shut! Mental illness is a big stigma. Most Koreans will not understand your problems. They here psychologist they think psycho.
2) Do not trust your coworkers completely. More so if Korean.
3) Careful on the self-medical for visa aka as ttompatz calls it an IQ test.
4) You might not be able to get your medications here. So consider stocking up, before coming over.
5) Finding a doc who will prescribe might take some doing. Might need to take monthly trips into Seoul or big city.
6) You might need to dry out before coming over as when you take the medical test. the drugs might cause a false positive.
7) Health Insurance might cover some costs, but the majority will likely be yours alone.
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