The French government will fund treatment for psychological problems starting next year, following the example of state health care systems in Britain, Germany and some other countries. French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday several measures during a conference with mental health professionals. Macron acknowledged the psychological impact of COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the government and the need to address past failures to make mental health a priority.
"We didn't want to see the importance of mental health, and we got hit in the face with the fact that health is all-encompassing,” Macron said, adding the consequences of the pandemic were just as tangible in mental health” as in physical health.
About 20% of French people suffer from depression, he said, and pointed to the rise in the number of children seeking psychological treatment and in attempted suicides, notably among teenagers.
The French government announced free therapy sessions for children and young people earlier this year. Macron pledged to extend the effort to everyone who has a doctor's prescription.
A French government survey earlier this month found that percentage of respondents who had suicidal thoughts over the course of 2021 had doubled to 10% from pre-pandemic surveys.
Mental health professionals worldwide have been warning about the pandemic-related isolation leading to a sharp increase in anxiety, depression, addiction and other conditions.
Keeping children out of school and a mask mandate for them impacted mental health, Macron said. The restriction is set to be lifted next week for the first time in more than a year.
Psychologists' unions, which had long demanded more government support, expressed hope that the government would follow through on Tuesday's promises
“Mental health is a major issue that is insufficiently addressed in our country,” Macron said. “The means provided for this issue over the years were not up to the task.”