France state

France offers state-funded therapy, tackles mental health

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that psychology appointments in France will be funded by the government from next year

Recognizing both the psychological impact of government restrictions on viruses and the government’s past failures to make mental health a priority, French President Emmanuel Macron announced several measures during a conference with professionals who work in the region.

As the virus spread across France, “we didn’t want to see the importance of mental health, and we were struck in the face that health is global,” Macron said. “The consequences of the pandemic are just as tangible in mental health” as in physical health.

He described an increase in the number of children seeking psychological treatment and suicide attempts, especially among adolescents. About 20% of French people suffer from depression, he said.

The French government announced free therapy sessions for children and young people earlier this year, and on Tuesday pledged to extend them to everyone. Psychiatric care is already largely reimbursed by the state.

A French government survey earlier this month found that 10% of those polled had had suicidal thoughts during the year, double the figure found in pre-pandemic surveys.

In many countries, mental health professionals say isolation during the epidemic has magnified the distress, and closures and curfews have also destabilized people. They describe a sharp increase in the number of people seeking help for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other conditions.

Health surveys carried out in France last year revealed a more acute wave of depression among unemployed people, people in financial difficulty and young adults. The diversion of resources from mental health to fighting COVID-19 has also affected patient care.

Keeping children away from school also has an impact on mental health, Macron said, as does France’s mask requirement for all schoolchildren. It will be lifted next week for the first time in over a year.

“Mental health is a major issue that is under-addressed in our country,” Macron said. “The resources made available for this file over the years were not up to the task.