Tag Archives: health

Depressing Depression in France

As I watched yet another person walk by me in Paris muttering to himself tonight, I was reminded of a conversation I had not long ago with a psychologist friend about the French healthcare system. Considering it has one of the most inclusive and admirable ones in the developed world, I was shocked to find out that the social security – the near-full coverage that is given to all who live in France – does not cover mental health.

A visit with a psychologist in Paris costs around 80 euros for a one-hour session. That equals out to 80 euros once a week, or 320 euros per month – about half a month’s rent. If you’re lucky enough to warrant medication and thus, a psychiatrist (read: “doctor”), you can get your bill mostly covered by the social security. But what about all the others with anxiety, mild depression, or other illnesses that can be treated – oftentimes better – without medication?

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or talk therapy, has been proven effective alongside medication but also all on its own. Talking out problems, finding constructive ways to deal with difficult situations, reversing negative thinking, and learning techniques to calm the body and mind is what CBT is all about. It’s such a shame that the French government would rather pay for someone to pop a pill than to correct what is really at the root of his or her problems.

Young girl crying

And the government should take note. According to the NOP World Health’s Western European Depression and Anxiety Physician Study from 2004, France has the highest proportion of depressed people in Western Europe. It says:

Many sufferers are undiagnosed, however — and even those who are diagnosed are often not treated with prescription medications. This continues to be true, in spite of the fact that many established depression and anxiety therapies are available in Europe — several in generic form or recently re-launched with new formulations.”

Of course this isn’t just a French problem. Mental health is still a hush-hush issue in the most modern countries on the planet. In Japan, where suicide rates are among the highest in the world, killing oneself is seen as an act of nobility linked back to the days of the Samurai. Japanese have even been known to join internet suicide clubs to meet and talk about their planned deaths.

One nation attempting to fade the stigma is the U.S., which has paved the way with bestselling self-help books and pop-psychology. Seeing a therapist in America is trendy and a normal topic of conversation among friends. Billboards for depression and suicide line the highways, and Dr. Phil is a regular on afternoon TV. While the Obama administration struggles to find a solution to the healthcare crisis in the U.S., mental healthcare would most likely be included in a medical insurance plan as it is now under private insurance, with perhaps a slightly higher deductible.

Back in France, the general health insurance outlook is much better. Under the national social security, patients are covered up to about 60%, which is often supplemented by a 30-euro per month mutuelle plan, bringing that coverage to 100%. One would think then, logically, that mental health would be covered by some small percentage, if not the whole 60%.

Sadly, this is not the case. My psychologist friend says that they are working on it. But I wonder, what does that mean? And what needs to happen for the social stigma of mental health to once and for all, finally wear off so that people can get the help they deserve?

Whether it’s the depressing news about mental health in France or the depression itself, I have a feeling I know why the French never smile.

Save the cows: halting the Blue Tongue spread in Dordogne

After widespread vaccinations in the Dordogne and across France, the Direction Départementale des Services Vétérinaires (DDSV) has found that it must restart its vaccination program against blue tongue – or fièvre catarrhale ovine – in an effort to eradicate remaining cases and prevent new ones. Dordogne cows and sheep are set to receive treatments at the end of winter and should help get animals ready for export to neighboring countries.

Strain 8 of blue tongue was first found in France in August 2007, followed by strain 1 later that year in November. Transmitted by biting midges, the disease is not dangerous to humans, even when consuming meat or milk from infected animals, but it can have dangerous or fatal consequences for the bovine.
https://i2.wp.com/everystockphoto.s3.amazonaws.com/nature_europe_switzerland_416074_o.jpgVaccinations for both strains 1 and 8 were already administered in the Dordogne back in July but those for strain 8 were not 100% effective. “We didn’t receive enough vaccinations in time,” says Director Vincent Cousin of the DDSV in Périgueux, “so it didn’t stop all the animals from getting sick.” Because of the shortage, strain 8 vaccinations continued into September. Strain 1 was efficiently warded off in July.

This winter, an estimated 100,000 sheep and 260,000 cows will be treated in the Dordogne against both strains. The procedure will take all of the veterinarians in the department, which is in the 50’s, to get the job done. “The length of time it takes depends on the availability of the veterinarians,” says Cousin. He adds that winter is the best time to perform the treatment since animals are already kept indoors and can be wrangled up easily for the operation.

The DDSV plans to administer the vaccinations every winter from now on to keep blue tongue at bay. If French authorities let the disease fester, trade relations with Spain and Italy could be compromised. Italy recently announced that it would not accept French cattle or sheep which had not been vaccinated against both strains of blue tongue.

“Each animal has a sort of passport,” says Cousin, “and every time they get a vaccination, they receive a stamp. Then they’re ready to be exported… But it doesn’t show whether the vaccination worked or not.”